Bay Harbor Islands preservation battle heats up

Town Council votes to appeal historic designation for Bay Harbor Continental Co-op

Jun.June 09, 2015 05:00 PM

A divided Bay Harbor Islands town council passed a resolution late Monday calling on the Miami-Dade County Commission to overturn historic designation status for the Bay Harbor Continental, a cooperative apartment building with 35 units in Bay Harbor Islands.

The council passed the resolution 5-2 with Vice-Mayor Stephanie Bruder saying the vote was about home rule. The resolution cited economic hardship imposed on many elderly residents of the aging co-op as a result of the county’s designation of the building as historic in April. Eighty-six percent of the co-op residents had voted earlier to approve the sale of the building to P3 investments.

Speaking at a May 20 meeting where the Miami-Dade Historic Preservation Board rejected an appeal to demolish the building, Michael Hartman, vice president of the co-op, said most of the building’s residents are on fixed incomes and need the money from the sale.

Most, he said, would be unable to afford special assessments to fix deteriorating balconies and roof areas that supporters of the sale say would cost millions.

At the meeting, several residents expressed strong opposition to the proposed demolition of the building. Thirteen of the 35 owners in the co-op opposed the sale, with some saying they will have nowhere else to go if the building is demolished. A number of owners also said that because of the building’s co-op status they would face huge tax liabilities if the building were sold.

Preservationists strongly oppose both overturning the historic designation status and demolishing the building. The 1958 building is an iconic example of Miami Modern or MiMo design, and the first historically designated building in Bay Harbor Islands, Daniel Ciraldo of the Miami Design Preservation League said.

“I think it puts more buildings at risk,” he told The Real Deal of the council resolution. A recent county survey found that 18 buildings in the town had been demolished recently with another 19 approved for demolition — many of them deemed as architecturally significant. Much of the fight over development in the city has focused on Bay Harbor’s East Island, which the National Trust for Historic Preservation has designated as one of the 11 most historically endangered places in the country.

P3 Investments is appealing the historic designation and a vote on the issue is expected at a county commission meeting on June 30. The company wants to replace the Bay Harbor Continental with a seven-story Pininfarina-designed luxury apartment building containing 28-units that Pininfarina designers said “will put new energy into MiMo.”

Last month in a decision that preservationists called unprecedented, the Miami Dade County Commission voted to strip historic designation from the Seaside Terrace Condominium in nearby Surfside — another building where residents were pitted against one another over whether historic designation had devalued their investment and limited their ability to sell their units.

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