Historic designation of Surfside condo building overturned

Preservationists warn decision on Seaside Terrace could jeopardize other historic structures

May.May 19, 2015 04:30 PM

In a decision that could have broad implications for developers, preservationists and residents of historic structures in Miami Dade County, the Miami-Dade County Commission on Tuesday granted an appeal to overturn the historic designation of the Seaside Terrace Condominium located at 9241 Collins Avenue in Surfside.

In doing so, the commission went against the recommendation of its own Office of Historic Preservation, finding in favor of a majority of owners in the building who said Seaside Terrace’s designation as historic earlier this year has devalued their investment and limited their ability to sell their units.

Commissioner Sally Heyman, who supported the appeal to overturn the designation told the commission most historic properties cannot comply with current code requirements regarding storm-resistant windows, cannot replace old electrical and plumbing systems and she said many condo owners in such buildings now face skyrocketing insurance rates because of the condition of their structures.

But Kathleen Kaufmann, chief of the Office of Historic Preservation told the commission that historic preservation designations place no limits on interior areas such as plumbing or electrical wiring, and rather than decreasing the value of buildings she said historic designation actually increases the value of many such structures.  She also said a building designated as historic can be substantially altered or added on to, and she cited several examples in Surfside such as the Surf Club Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences, where a significant portion of the original building is being demolished.

Jesus Lopez, a retired government worker from Arlington, Virginia who with his sister Josefina owns two units in the building, brought the appeal and said he was happy with the outcome. He told The Real Deal that Seaside Terrace is much smaller than the Surf Club so comparisons with the larger project don’t apply.  He also said historic designation hurts small investors like himself. “Regardless of what they say the value for an investor goes down when they have a historic building because they have to maintain portions of the old building and they have to invest more money,“ he said. With his successful appeal, Lopez and other unit owners in Seaside Terrace could now benefit from selling to a developer in Surfside where new luxury units are being sold for $1,200 per square foot.

Joel Thurston, who supported historic designation for the building where he and his wife own two units, converted Seaside Terrace from a hotel to a condominium 30 years ago. Thurston declined to speak to TRD after the commission hearing.

But Daniel Ciraldo, the historic preservation officer with the Miami Design Preservation League told TRD the reversal of the historic designation was unprecedented and could affect scores of historic structures across the county.

“We all have to be on notice, now because if everything can be appealed and overturned what is the purpose of having historic preservation.”

Ciraldo says the most immediate impact will be on older buildings under county jurisdiction in Surfside, Bal Harbour and Bay Harbor Islands where residents of many older buildings are fighting historic designation of their buildings, which have skyrocketed in value over the past two years.

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