After three hearings before the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board, New York-based HFZ Capital Group has still not gotten approval to carry out the “near total demolition” of the Cromwell Hotel, a structure that will be part of an eventual super luxury condo-hotel complex anchored by the iconic Shore Club hotel at 1901 Collins Avenue.
On Tuesday the Preservation Board denied a request HFZ’s lawyers to push ahead with demolishing most of the Cromwell, but did allow HFZ to pursue plans for renovating the Shore Club. The approval came with conditions that would get rid of all balconies except those facing the ocean and some modifications to the design of the pool area and parking spaces.
The Board gave HFZ 60 days to submit a new proposal for demolishing the Cromwell. So final approval of the condo-conversion project for the 309-room hotel into a luxury destination with 85 condo units and 100 hotel rooms will have to wait until at least July.
The project is one of the biggest in South Beach and has pitted HFZ against preservationists and neighbors of the Setai Resort & Residences, which sits just across 20th Street from the planned development.
Setai residents are challenging the project before the Historic Preservation Board and the Miami Beach Board of Adjustment, saying HFZ’s plans have already severely disrupted parking and deliveries along 20th street and that a planned five story building housing gyms, conference rooms and a spa will eliminate areas on 20th Street now designated for parking trash pickups and deliveries.
Tuesday’s hearing featured heated discussions between structural engineers hired by HFZ and Setai residents over whether demolishing part of the Cromwell would put it in danger of collapse — especially during hurricane season which lasts until November. Engineers for HFZ said demolition of the Cromwell was necessary to determine the extent of bracing necessary to eventually hold up a structure built into the Shore Club. Engineers for the Setai residents countered saying more information was needed in the form of core samples and details of the structure, and pushing ahead now with gutting the structure could cause it to collapse.
Board members expressed concern, saying extensive testing has always been done before demolition projects and any demolition plan needed to be refined before being approved. The board cited concerns raised by a staff report that strongly recommended a significant reduction in “the scope of demolition.” HFZ said its current plan calls for demolishing 98 percent of the south side of the Cromwell hotel, 71 percent of the east side and 15 percent of the west side.
At the same time the board said it did not agree with staffers’ recommendations that called for redesigning the five-story building on 20th street, saying HFZ could push ahead with plans for the structure. A staff report called the proposed building “monolithic” and “not consistent with the historic urban character of the surrounding district.”