Historic Districts at Risk with Proposed State Legislation: SB1526 / HB1647 Mid-Session Update

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Historic Districts at Risk - Florida Legislation Update

Miami Design Preservation League has been sounding the alarm on bills being reviewed at the State of Florida’s 2024 Legislative Session in Tallahassee, which runs through early March. The bills – entitled “Regulation of Nonconforming or Unsafe Structures” – appear to be focused on ensuring unsafe structures ordered to be demolished are not delayed by local government. However, as currently written the bills could negatively impact hundreds of historic buildings in Miami Beach alone – and untold others throughout the State of Florida.

MDPL continues its outreach to the bill sponsors as well as other impacted stakeholders in order to encourage an amendment that will ensure historic districts and landmarks are not impacted. The House sponsor is Representative Spencer Roach and the Senate sponsor is Bryan Avila.

Impacts to Miami Beach

As of this writing, both bills HB1647 and SB1526 include language for “Qualifying Structures” (a) and Exemptions (b) which would lead to the loss of protections for many historically designated structures.

These structures would lose their protections historic designation protections, including demolition restrictions and redevelopment limitations.

Current Bill language excerpt:

The definition of “nonconforming structure” in the bill is as follows:

This overly broad definition means that many historic buildings along the coast will be automatically categorized as nonconforming – despite FEMA guidelines which allow for the preservation of historic buildings even if they do not meet the new construction requirements.

Stakeholders from impacted areas are asking for the bill language to be amended, to remove the language that could impact historic buildings. Our suggested amendment is below:

Delete lines 55-60 and insert:

line and which structure or building is determined to be unsafe by a local building official and ordered to be demolished by a local government that has proper jurisdiction

This amendment must be considered as a part of the bill – without it, many of Florida’s historic buildings and neighborhoods will be at risk.

Below are examples of historic neighborhoods in Miami Beach that could be impacted by this bill, if not properly amended.

Collins Waterfront National Register District

This district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011 and is also a locally-designated historic district. It includes 110 contributing buildings and popular landmarks including the Faena district, the Edition Hotel (former Seville), Palms Hotel, Cadillac, Confidante, Riu, and many others.

Under the current bill language, the buildings on the east side of Collins Avenue could be considered “nonconforming” if any part of the buildings do not meet the FEMA flood elevation requirements for new construction.

Map courtesy City of Miami Beach Planning Department

Morris Lapidus / Mid 20th Century Historic District

This is a local historic district designated under the Certified Local Government process set by the state of Florida’s historic preservation office and the National Park Service (NPS), and approved by the Miami Beach City Commission.

While some properties like the Fontainebleau are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, most of the other buildings are not – including the Eden Roc, Imperial House, Alexander, Seacoast Towers, Crystal House, and others. Therefore, most buildings would also fall under “nonconforming” status given the language of this bill.

Map courtesy City of Miami Beach Planning Department

North Beach Resort District

This local district includes a wide variety of mid-century / post-WWII resorts including the Casablanca, Sherry Frontenac, Deauville Hotel site, Carillon, Golden Sands, and Hilton Cabana (former Allison Hotel)

Map courtesy City of Miami Beach Planning Department

Ocean Beach Historic District

This local historic district includes much of the neighborhood known as “South of Fifth.” Among the landmarks are the oldest existing commercial building in Miami Beach. Due to the language of the current bill, historic buildings that could be impacted include the Savoy Hotel, an Art Deco landmark just south of the Art Deco District. The Savoy and other landmarks would be considered “nonconforming” under the current language of the bill.

Savoy Hotel, Miami Beach
Map courtesy City of Miami Beach Planning Department

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