Miami Beach commissioners on Wednesday moved to prevent the demolition of architecturally significant buildings in North Beach while city planners create development regulations that would maintain the neighborhood’s scale and character.
The commission gave final approval to a six-month moratorium on the demolition of waterfront properties along the Tatum Waterway. Another demolition moratorium on buildings inside two national historic districts received initial approval.
Talk of creating local historic districts has persisted for years in North Beach, the city’s most affordable, working-class area, which contains a unique stock of Mid-Century Modern apartment buildings. Activists have long called for the city to protect the low-slung structures, a cry that was echoed in a master plan developed as a vision for the future of all of North Beach.
In December, the commission voted to start the yearlong process of designating local historic districts in two sections of North Beach — one on Normandy Isle and the other north of the North Shore Youth Center — according to the recommendations of the master plan, save for low-lying buildings that lie on the Tatum Waterway. The local designation allows the the city’s Historic Preservation Board to review redevelopment plans, making it more difficult to demolish historic facades.
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The proposed local districts include Harding Avenue from 73rd up to the northern border of the city at 87th Street, a section from Harding to Dickens Avenue between 73rd and 75th streets, and buildings on Bay Drive, Marseilles Drive and South Shore Drive on the eastern edge of Normandy Isle. This area covers a portion of the National Register District, a federal designation that does not provide any local protections.
The other recommendation from the firm that developed the master plan, Dover, Kohl & Partners, was to create design guidelines for the buildings in the remainder of the national district. The rules of this “conservation district” that would cover the area outside the local historic district would aim to preserve the neighborhood’s current scale and character.
The six-month ban on tearing down the architecturally significant buildings is meant to give city planners time to develop these regulations without fear that any of the buildings will be torn down.
“I think this moratorium allows everybody to relax into the conversation about conservation districts,” said Commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán at Wednesday’s meeting.