The Real Deal Miami

Bay Harbor Islands historic resource survey faces scrutiny

Out of 264 structures, 48 were immediately eligible for historic designation

June 17, 2015 06:05PM
By James Teeple

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Bay Harbor Islands survey map

Bay Harbor Islands survey map

The Miami Dade Historic Preservation Board unveiled its long anticipated East Island Historic Resource Survey at a crowded and contentious public hearing on Wednesday in Bay Harbor Islands.

The survey, which evaluated 264 structures on East Island, found 48 immediately eligible for historic designation, and 78 others eligible if such a district were established. The survey also found 138 buildings not meeting the criteria for historic designation.

The results were made public at a hearing held in Bay Harbor Islands. The twin island city has been the focus of recent battles over the proposed demolition of the Bay Harbor Continental, a 1958 cooperative apartment house that was granted historic designation earlier this year – a designation the city and a majority of its owners are seeking to overturn. They city’s West Island, which is made up exclusively of single-family homes, was not included in the survey.

Preservationists said that many of the buildings that the survey found to have historic significance on East Island are at risk of being demolished by developers. A county survey found 18 buildings in the town had recently been torn down with another 19 approved for demolition.

The island is home to scores of structures – mostly apartment houses that were built in what came to be known as Miami Modern, or MiMo, featuring delicate concrete screening, geometric design and decorative outdoor stairways and balconies.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Historic Preservation Board Chairman Mitch Novick urged his fellow board members to act on the survey by approving a historic designation report, the next step in the historic designation process. But board members, in part responding to angry residents, instead voted to hold workshops on the survey and bring the issue back before the board in September.

Many residents said that designating their buildings historic would lower the value of their properties and make them more difficult to sell – something County historic preservation officers dispute.

Bay Harbor Islands Mayor Jordan Leonard, whose family has lived in the city for 61 years, and who opposes historic designation for East Island, said the city has already lost 4 percent of its buildings because owners have torn down many of their buildings fearing historic designation.