Miami Beach mayor launches new push to save historic homes

07/11/2013 3:18 PM

07/11/2013 4:19 PM

The fight to save historic homes in Miami Beach got a boost this week, with the city’s mayor proposing a six-month moratorium on the demolition of architecturally significant homes and preservationists taking to court their battle to save an 88-year-old mansion.

All of this is happening while proposals to provide more protections for historic homes snake their way through various city processes.

Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower has called for the city’s planning board to temporarily stop issuing demolition permits for homes that were built before 1942 and that have notable architectural features. She placed the issue on Wednesday’s regular commission meeting as a referral to the Planning Board.

“I believe this moratorium is important to allow for the review of current and proposed ordinances that would protect against demolition of our historic single-family-home neighborhoods, while allowing time for further incentive programs to be developed in order to preserve more of our existing housing stock,” she wrote in a July 9 memo.

Various city departments and boards have been tinkering with the city’s development laws to come up with ways to encourage people to restore potentially historic homes, rather than tear them down. The city’s Land Use Committee has proposed an ordinance that would provide incentives for retaining architecturally significant homes and limit the kind of construction allowed when such a home is torn down. Commissioners on Wednesday will decide whether to send the proposal to the Planning Board for further review, and to allow that board to make recommendations.

Meanwhile, the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL) has appealed the demolition approval of a celebrity couple’s Star Island home to circuit court.

The home, at 42 Star Island, has been at the center of a months-long battle. Owners Leonard Hochstein, a plastic surgeon known as “The Boob God,” and his wife, Lisa, a cast member of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Miami, have gotten city permission to tear down the mansion. Preservationists have fought the demolition approval, given by the city’s Design Review Board (DRB.)

MDPL has also filed an application to have the 1925 home, designed by Florida’s first registered architect, historically designated.

Preservationists recently lost an appeal to a city special master and are now asking the courts to weigh in.

The city “did not adequately evaluate whether it was practical and feasible to repair and retain the home at 42 Star Island,” said MDPL attorney Kent Harrison Robbins. “If the building can be saved, then that has to be analyzed and considered by the DRB and a new hearing has to be granted.”

An attorney for the Hochsteins didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

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