After years of neglect and disrepair, the Deauville Beach Resort will be demolished, the city of Miami Beach declared this week.
The demolition order, which was announced via a letter to the Miami Beach City Commission on Wednesday, follows the ownership’s report that determined the building is an unsafe structure. The city verified those findings with an inspection late last week.
“Unfortunately, that report makes clear that the building is unsafe and cannot be saved due to structural defects,” the letter to the commission from City Manager Alina Hudak states.
The historic hotel was home to the Beatles’ famous 1964 performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The oceanfront property attracted the late Frank Sinatra, the late Joan Rivers and the late President John F. Kennedy. An electrical fire forced its closure in 2017, and it has remained shuttered ever since.
The 540-key hotel, at 6701 Collins Avenue, has been at the center of litigation and other issues between the city and its ownership for years. Deauville Associates LLC, a company owned and controlled by Belinda and Richard Meruelo, acquired the hotel in 2004 for just $4 million.
The North Beach hotel has racked up fines totaling about $1.8 million since last year, according to a Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board meeting last week in which the board discussed suggestions on how to move forward.
Eric Carpenter, Miami Beach’s deputy city manager, said on Thursday that the city will begin the application process for the demolition, which can take one to two months. Once the permit is approved, which includes a sign-off from Miami-Dade County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management, work will be done to ensure the building is safe for demolition, which could take another two months. That will include an asbestos abatement process, he said.
It’s unclear what’s in store for the 3.8-acre property following demolition. Carpenter said the owner will have to seek approval from the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board for an after-the-fact certificate of appropriateness that will dictate what the owner can do with the property, and whether that requires the building be rebuilt as it was.
At the city meeting last week, board members warned that the then-expected demolition would set a dangerous precedent for owners of historic properties who may want to force demolitions in situations where they would otherwise have to preserve architecturally significant structures. Activists, as well as Historic Preservation Board members, have long voiced their concerns about other structures where the owners — in most cases, developers — have left their structures open to the natural elements.
The Deauville, a MiMo-style resort that was designed by architect Melvin Grossman and completed in 1957, has many historic features that preservationists argue should be removed and restored. The property includes a large swimming pool, theater, salon, ice skating rink, ballroom and radio station.
Laura Weinstein-Berman, a historic preservation board member, called it a “real serious loophole” that was “extraordinarily” concerning from both a life-safety perspective and historic preservation perspective.
The letter to the commission states that the damage to the structure has been a huge concern for the mayor, commission and administration. That concern has intensified since the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo tower in Surfside.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Michael Hanzman, who is also overseeing the Champlain Towers South litigation, entered an order late last year that required the Meruelo entity to submit the structural report that led to the city’s demolition order. The Deauville had until Dec. 15 to submit the report, court records show.
“I live near this building,” Weinstein said at last week’s historic preservation board meeting, referring to the Deauville. “They did not maintain the property. They left windows open intentionally.”