In the kitchen, random clutter — an old fast food cup, an unopened Presidente beer — is scattered over the countertops. An unpacked suitcase lays open in an upstairs bedroom. Yellowed curtains hang. A stuffed Disney toy sits in the corner of another room, along with a roller skate and some markers.
“Kind of looks like a scene from a haunted movie, all of the old children’s toys over there,” Lisa Hochstein said.
When it rains, water accumulates in the downstairs living room, Leonard Hochstein said. An engineering report details years of water intrusion into the structure, a rotten wooden roof and a moldy air conditioning system.
And then there are the roaches.
Walking through an upstairs bathroom, Lisa Hochstein looked down at Leo, the couple’s fluffy Pomeranian, as he pranced across the floor.
“There’s lots of little cockroaches all over,” she said. “Leo, I don’t think I even want you on the floor. Come here.”
But the biggest problems are unseen, said Leonard Hochstein. According to the report the couple’s engineer turned into the city, the home’s life expectancy was only about 40 years, and it should have toppled decades ago.
Preservationists have taken issue with the report, and even city employees tasked with reviewing the Hochsteins’ plans for demolition have appeared incredulous as to the findings.
From a staff report: “Staff remains confident that the structure could be retained and structurally restored, if desired.”
Ira Giller is a member of Miami Beach’s Historic Preservation Board and a professional architect. He recently toured the home.
“To my trained professional eye...I didn’t find the structure of the house to be in terribly poor shape. I didn’t find it to be irreparable. I didn’t see significant evidence of significant structural deterioration,” Giller said at a recent board meeting
After several delays, Miami Beach’s Design Review Board is set to consider the Hochstein’s petition for demolition on March 5. The application for historic designation is still in the beginning stages. Whichever side gets its application approved first, wins. The Hochsteins are hopeful.
“This is still the greatest city to live in. ... I think in the end, it will happen,” Leonard Hochstein said.
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