Real Estate

A New Law Would Remove Many Architectural Protections in Miami Beach

The oceanfront Eden Roc Hotel is an icon of Miami Modernist architecture, a style that epitomized the postwar glamour and grandeur of Miami Beach. Two turquoise panels wrap the white facade. The oval canister perched atop the building resembles a cruise ship’s funnel. Crooners like Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte, and Sammy Davis, Jr., stayed and played there.

But a new Florida law could make it easier for hotels like the Eden Roc and other architectural icons along Miami Beach’s coastline to be demolished.

The battle pits the pressures of development and climate change against the benefits of historical preservation, in a city that has long paved over its past and prizes the new, shiny, and glitzy.

Supporters say the law addresses environmental and safety challenges of aging properties after the deadly 2021 collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo. But critics believe the legislation is a pretext to facilitate the demolition of historical buildings — ones that give Miami Beach its distinct look — to make way for high-rise luxury condos.

The new law effectively strips Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board of its long-held power to say whether historic structures can be demolished and, if a structure is knocked down, to ensure that at least some elements of its design are preserved or replicated.

“Let’s just bulldoze the past — that’s their idea,” said Daniel Ciraldo, the executive director of the nonprofit Miami Design Preservation League. “I don’t think we’ve seen such an attack on our local controls since the 1980s, back when the city first started to do historic preservation.”

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