The readers’ forum

Save community’s historic homes

 

Re the Feb. 13 story ‘Real Housewives’ star and husband can tear down historic home: As president of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables, it is disappointing to read about yet another architecturally significant home to be lost to the wrecking ball.

This home is at 42 Star Island, built in 1925 and designed by Florida’s first registered architect, Walter DeGarmo. The reason the home can be razed? It was never designated historic, therefore unable to be “saved.” The Miami Beach City Commision rejected preservationists’ plea to protect the home and declare it historic.

One of our group’s founding board members and veteran preservation professional, Ellen Uguccioni, makes a poignant observation about this repeating theme: “This story is a recurring one because of a lack of maintenance and no code enforcement. I have been working with students on a historic survey this year and it is estimated that only 2 percent of the historically eligible homes have actually been officially designated.

“The point is that the municipal offices charged with preservation programs need our help. When a building appears to be visually significant and is vacant, chances are that the owner is unable, unwilling or savvy enough to allow the property to deteriorate beyond a reasonable point at which it can be rehabilitated without destroying the property by the necessity to add structural systems, etc. I am sure we have all heard opponents to designation say, ‘Well if it is so important, why did not they designate it before the 11th hour?’ I do not have the answer, I am simply frustrated.”

The answer? Historic designation should be a proactive process and not a reactive one. Historic designation should be a priority for any municipality, not an afterthought. Historic designation should be embraced, not rejected.

History repeats itself. Help preserve it.

Karelia Martinez Carbonell, president, Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables

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