Miami Beach

Plans to demolish historic Star Island home put on hold for now

Miami Beach preservationists protest Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, plans to demolish this house at 44 Star Island Dr. This is the front of the house shot from the street on Star Island.
Miami Beach preservationists protest Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015, plans to demolish this house at 44 Star Island Dr. This is the front of the house shot from the street on Star Island. Miami Herald staff

The request to demolish a 1935 mansion on Star Island has been put on hold after the owner met with historians and agreed to explore alternatives.

The application to demolish 44 Star Island was not discussed at Tuesday’s Design Review Board meeting in Miami Beach because the owner asked for more time to weigh alternatives.

Michael Larkin, an attorney representing owner Shay Kostiner, on Tuesday told the Miami Herald that Kostiner met with local historians Jeff Donnelly and Carolyn Klepser over the weekend to discuss the historical significance of the home.

“Based on the meeting with these historians, we are exploring alternatives to total demolition, which could include relocation of the house,” Larkin said. “We’ll have more information on Monday. But I’m not hopeful. I don’t want to give false hopes.”

Daniel Ciraldo, historic preservation officer at the Miami Design Preservation League, said preservationists hope there’s a way to keep the structure standing.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that this historic home will also be saved,” he said.

The 80-year-old home has particular significance to the preservationist community. John H. Levi, a marine engineer who created Star Island and friend to Miami Beach pioneer Carl Fisher, built the home. Levi was the person who invited Fisher down to the Miami area for a meeting.

Fisher loved the area, and his subsequent investments helped establish Miami Beach. Levi later went on to be mayor.

The 7,103-square-foot home does not have a historic designation by the city, which would protect it from demolition. Miami Beach does not have stringent historic preservation laws to preserve its older homes compared with cities like Coral Gables, which requires older buildings to be reviewed by the city’s Historical Resources Department, and possibly its Historic Preservation Board, before a home can be demolished.

Meanwhile, plans for another Star Island home got a good reception from both preservationists and the Design Review Board.

Stuart Miller, CEO of Lennar and owner of the 84-year-old home at 22 Star Island, has plans to only demolish the old home’s porte cochere, relocate the rest of the structure and build a new mansion next to it. The 8,445-square-foot home sits on a 58,906-square-foot lot, according to county property records.

Board member John Turchin applauded Miller and the project’s team for a design that keeps the 1931 home standing.

“I commend you on the design, and overall for saving the old house and fitting it in,” he said.

The board only reviewed the design of the homes because it could not vote on required variances. The board is short two members who need to be appointed by the City Commission, and one of the five sitting members could not vote because a spouse works for a company Miller owns.

Both matters will go back to the board in April.

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