But zoning had as much to do with how the Deco buildings looked as the architecture did, Turchin says. When I was starting out, the zoning on the beach was 14 stories maximum, so builders would fill up bigger parcels to the edge of the property line. Land was cheap then, so they could. I kept saying Go up. Go higher. You had more options then to put in nice landscaping, underground parking and other amenities, he says.
While Liebman and others viewed the skyline of the 1960s and 1970s as a concrete canyon, the rising structures offered new opportunities for dining and nightlife that held an irresistible attraction for the post-war affluent. Miami Beach garnered a reputation for celebrity hot spots like the Montmartre, with its Les Girls Supper Club and Bardot Bar, one of many Turchin collaborations with Melvin Grossman.
If he demolished some buildings, Turchin has also seen his creations become tear-downs. In 1981 the Montmartre was leveled. On the strip south of 163rd Street, two condominiums replaced the circa 1957 Castaways that housed the famed Wreck Bar under its fanciful roof. A 46-story tower stands where he built the three-story Mozart. Many more of his buildings are in their second or third generation of redevelopment.
Liebman, now president of the MiMo Biscayne Association, works to preserve Biscayne Boulevard as the historic entryway to Miami, so that MiMo buildings like the Turchin-built 1961 King Cole Condominium at 900 Bay Dr. continue to stand. As a matter of fact, I live in one of Mr. Turchins buildings on Belle Isle, she says. Its well-built, has aesthetic appeal, and the amenities are lovely.
Both the builder and the preservationist love Miami Beach and have given their all to the community. Like the debate over the Herald building, they are two sides of a coin.
When a building comes down, I feel a little nostalgia, but not for long, says Turchin. Thats life. Miami only has so much land. You can stagnate, or you can do it over again.