The Real Deal Miami

Miami Beach moves to create North Beach historic districts

Historic preservation board supports expanding areas from earlier proposals

October 11, 2016 05:15PM
By James Teeple

  • Print

Rendering of the North Beach master plan

The Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board on Tuesday recommended creating two local historic districts in the city’s North Beach neighborhood. Now it’s up to the Miami Beach City Commission, which will likely begin discussions on the creating the districts at its monthly meeting next week.   

Discussions about creating local historic districts in North Beach, the part of the city that stretches from 63rd Street to 87th Terrace and between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay, have been going on for several years, but it was only after the city commissioned a 189-page master plan from town planners Dover Kohl earlier this year that the city began drawing up plans for the two districts.  

Much of the area already lies within a National Register Historic District, but preservationists and other neighborhood activists have argued that many of the old buildings that make up the district can still be demolished and can only be protected by the creation of a local historic district, which would require the historic preservation board to review any plans to alter or demolish buildings.  

The two proposed local districts would be created in the Normandy Isle and North Shore neighborhoods of North Beach. They follow recommendations made by Dover Kohl planners who expanded proposals for the planned districts from an earlier version made in 2014. They would include neighborhoods that border Tatum Waterway – something that preservationists like Daniel Ciraldo of the Miami Design Preservation League have long advocated.

“It’s unique, low buildings right next to a wide-canal and it’s something that I think when it’s preserved and fixed up is going to be an even better neighborhood than what it is now,” Ciraldo told The Real Deal.  

But some developers in the neighborhood say many of the older low-rise buildings along Miami Beach waterways like the Tatum are not sustainable because of sea-level rise and any move to preserve them won’t work. Matis Cohen, who owns a number of buildings in the area, has long advocated for replacing many of the older buildings with new residential buildings that he says would be more resilient and appeal to modern buyers. He said many of the older buildings were built quickly in the 1940s and ’50s, and when roads are raised in the area, as the city plans to do in the next few years, the old buildings will be at even more risk of flooding.

“So if the city says we are going to raise our roads, we are going to put in pumps, we are going to spend billions on infrastructure, how are they going to pay for it and how are they going to protect those buildings if they are underwater?” Cohen told TRD.  

A staff presentation made on Tuesday to the HPB omitted many of the waterfront areas from being included in the proposed districts. The staff proposal was based on an earlier map prepared by the city in 2014, but after complaints from preservationists and neighborhood activists at the hearing, board members agreed to submit the more extensive map proposals drawn up by Dover Kohl planners to the city commission for consideration.   

Tuesday’s developments are just the latest in a series of measures undertaken this year to revitalize North Beach. City commissioners have given preliminary approval to raising height limits from 75 feet to 125 feet along 71st Street and parts of 72nd Street in a move to create a “Town Center,” for North Beach. They have also created a new overlay district for the Ocean Terrace historic district, where developer Sandor Scher could build a new 235-foot high condominium or a hotel along Ocean Terrace. The city has also taken steps to create a short-term rental district along Harding Avenue that supporters have said will allow many small, older MiMo buildings that are economically unviable to be preserved.