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Preservation vs. Profit: The Battle to Save Miami Beach’s Iconic Art Deco Buildings from Developer Demolition Plans

Historic preservation advocates are expressing concerns that many of Miami Beach’s iconic Art Deco buildings could be at risk of demolition due to proposed legislation from three Republican state legislators. The Resiliency and Safe Structures Act, introduced by Rep. Spencer Roach and Sen. Bryan Avila, aims to replace unsafe buildings with more resilient structures. However, critics argue that it also allows developers to replace historic buildings with massive towers and provides incentives for owners to neglect the maintenance of historic properties. While the act passed the state Senate, it was tabled in the House, with Roach planning to propose it again in the next legislative session in January.

Another proposal from state Rep. Fabián Basabe suggests letting developers demolish older residential buildings temporarily and relocate their tenants while constructing safer, modern structures. Preservationists worry that many historic properties, especially those within flood zones, could be eligible for demolition under these proposals.

Preservation advocates, such as Dade Heritage Trust and the Miami Design Preservation League, are concerned about the potential destruction of the famed Art Deco row on Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue, which has been vital in the revival of South Beach. Only buildings on the National Register of Historic Places would be protected from demolition under the Resiliency and Safe Structures Act, and currently, only seven buildings in Miami Beach have this designation.

It’s unclear what the future holds for Miami’s historic properties, as these legislative proposals could significantly impact the city’s architectural heritage. Developers and their political contributions are being closely scrutinized in this debate, as some preservation advocates believe these proposals are driven by profit-seeking interests rather than genuine safety concerns or affordable housing needs. The legislation is viewed by some as an attempt by Florida’s Republican-dominated Legislature to override local governments’ authority over land use and development, and it is further seen as potentially exploiting the tragic Surfside condo collapse of 2021 as a pretext for redevelopment along the coastlines.

As discussions around these proposals continue, they raise critical questions about the balance between preservation, safety, and the desire for new development in Miami Beach and its historic neighborhoods.

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