Historic Designation for Single Family Homes

The Historic Preservation Board designated the Mediterranean Revival/Art Deco Transitional home of Ricardo Puggina at 309 East San Marino Drive, built in 1937, as an historic structure on August 14th, 2012.  The HPB receives a number of requests each year from single-family property owners for this important designation. To date 24 such homes have been designated.  Some of these homes are high end and elaborate, others are simple and modest – all are important to the unique architectural history of Miami Beach.

The City of Miami Beach charges no application fee for the designation of single family homes and only one public hearing is required in order to designate.  When a home owner submits a request to the Planning Department for historic designation, the staff of the department researches the date of construction, the architect, and the design integrity of the home, and makes a preliminary determination of whether the home qualifies to be considered for historic designation by the Historic Preservation Board.

In order to qualify for historic designation, the home must satisfy at least one of eight designation evaluation criteria set forward in Section 118-592 of the Land Development Regulations of the City Code.  If Planning Department staff determine the home satisfies one or more of these criteria, the staff then schedules a public hearing by the Historic Preservation Board and works very closely with the homeowner in the preparation of a Designation Report.

This is a very “user friendly” process, and the staff of the Planning Department is delighted to work with homeowners whose homes qualify for historic designation.  Note that the interiors of single-family homes are NOT subject to regulatory review by the Historic Preservation Board, only the exterior.  Some of the factors that will be considered in the review process are the age of the home, its architectural style and period of construction, the architect, and its current design integrity – that is, does the home still retain its original design integrity or has it been so altered that its original design can no longer be recognized?

More specifically, the Designation Evaluation Criteria contained in Section 118-592 of the Land Development Regulations include the following:

(1) an association with events that have made significant contributions to the city, county, state, or nation

(2) an association with the lives of significant individuals in the city’s history

(3) embodying the distinctive characteristics of an historical period, an architectural of design style, or a particular method of construction

(4) possessing intrinsically high artistic merit

(5) representing the work of an acknowledged master, such as a master designer/ architect/ or builder who contributed to our common historic/ aesthetic/ or architectural heritage

(6) has yielded, or is likely to yield, important historic information

(7) having a listing in the National Register of Historic Places

(8) be part of a geographically defined and distinct area of similar structures united by similar elements, even if individual components might lack distinction

Further, a single family home may be designated even though it may have been altered, if the alterations are reversible and the most significant architectural elements are intact and can be repaired.  And remember, only ONE of the above listed eight criteria must be determined by the Historic Preservation Board to be satisfied in order for designation to be granted.  Don’t be intimidated by the process – it is not at all difficult. The City and the Board welcome single-family home designation.

What are the benefits of such designation to the property owner?  Perhaps the most important benefit is the immense pride a property owner can take in being one among a number of special historic structures in Miami Beach, structures that exemplify what makes this city famous around the world, a city that draws tourists, architects, historians, and others to its Art Deco, Mediterranean Revival, and historic Miami Modern design fabric daily, a livable city that is pleasing to the eyes of visitors and residents alike, a city justifiably proud of its unique history.

But the benefits can be financial as well, and can even save your home from having to meet new State Building Code requirements if you wish to renovate or add onto your home and the cost of the work exceeds 50% of the depreciated replacement value of the existing construction, particularly if your home is situated below the Flood Plain.  Historically designated single family homes may seek a waiver from the City’s Flood Plain Management Board that will allow the floor level of the historic home to remain below the Flood Plain even if the cost of renovations and improvements exceeds the State’s 50% law.  Many owners of historic single-family homes in Miami Beach have been able to take advantage of this unique benefit, allowing them to comfortably expand their homes without having to raise the original floors to the new flood criteria.

Additionally, owners of historically designated single family homes can apply for savings in property taxes when making qualifying improvements to the structure, under the City’s Historic Ad Valorem Tax Exemption Program for Single Family Homes.  This program exempts the home from the City’s portion of the real estate taxes for “added value” (as determined by the County Tax Appraiser) for a period of ten years.

And don’t think that if your home is historically designated that you cannot make any alterations or additions to it, something most people do not realize.  The Historic Preservation Board regularly approves alterations and new additions to single family homes that are appropriately designed and do not compromise the historical significance of the home.  When such an approval is granted it is known as a “Certificate of Appropriateness”, and normally the approval requires only one public hearing at the Historic Preservation Board.  And again, there is no application fee for historic single-family homeowners.  The highly experienced staff of the Planning Department will be glad to assist you in this process.

So why should you consider having your historic home designated by the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board?  Because it is advantageous on so many levels and helps to preserve the exceptional historic design character of our single-family residential neighborhoods in Miami Beach.  You really should consider it!

Written by Jo Manning with William Cary

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