The Coral Gables Historic Preservation Board voted to place the home at 745 Minorca Ave. on the city’s historic registry, thus preventing it from being demolished.
In a 5-2 vote, the board said the home, built in 1928, represented the architecture from the Mediterranean Revival period, one of the key architectural periods of the city.
Dona Spain, the city’s preservation officer, had recommended the move. Board members Dolly MacIntyre, Peggy Ronaldo, Alejandro Silva, Judy Pruitt and Chairperson Deborah Tackett agreed with her position. Former Mayor Dorothy Thomson and Venny Torre voted against the registry designation. Kendell Turner and Carmen Guerrero were absent.
The homeowner, Mads Thomsen, sought to have the board dismiss Spain’s recommendation. Thomsen wants to demolish the four-bedroom, three-bath, 2,545-square-foot home and build a modern, larger home centered on the 14,125-square-foot lot.
Thomsen said he would appeal the board’s decision, made on Feb. 21. He was upset the board made its decision without looking at the home, a concern echoed by board member Thomson. Spain had reviewed the home’s historic photos.
“Nobody's even asking me why I want it demolished,’’ he said, adding he wants to build a home to raise a family.
This saga began shortly after Thomsen purchased the home for $605,000 in June 2012.
Before he purchased the home, Thomsen said he asked his real agent about the possibility of demolishing the home, which needs a major upgrade. According to Thomsen, the agent told him the house was not historic and therefore he could demolish it.
The agent was only partially right. While the home was not on the published list of historic properties in the city, that didn’t mean he could automatically demolish the home. Under a 2002 city ordinance, all requests to demolish a home that’s at least 50 years old must first be evaluated by the city's historic preservation department.
In a 9-0 vote, the board ruled last August the home was historic. It based its ruling on the year of construction, 1928, and the similarities between the exterior facade and the original home.
Thomsen, at that hearing, argued that the home had been substantially renovated and was in terrible condition. Thomsen does not live in the home; he lives in Miami Beach.
Ellen Uguccioni, the city’s former historic director, testified as a witness for Thomsen, saying the home had a one-story addition and modifications to the front exterior, which she noted, erased any historical significance to the home.
Spain pointed to four other homes from that era which the board had declared historic when Uguccioni was in charge.
If Thomsen loses his appeal and the home stays on the historic registry, he would need permission from the board to demolish the home.
City Attorney Craig Leen said Spain works with real estate agents to inform them of the demolition permit review process. She attends local real estate conventions to help spread the word about the city’s Historic Preservation Ordinance, found in its zoning code.
“Real estate agents should know our code if they’re selling in Coral Gables,” Leen said.
Materials on the city’s historic designation process are also available on the Gable’s website.
Thomsen has set up his own website, www.coralgablesbuyeralert.com, outlining his home’s case and calling for other homeowners stuck in historic limbo to submit their stories.
“I want to make sure that anybody who buys is an educated buyer,” he said.
The next Historic Board meeting will be at 4 p.m. March 21 at Coral Gables City Hall, 405 Biltmore Way, second-floor commission chambers.