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Miami communities keep losing historic homes. How one village is pushing to save them

Rebecca San Juan, Miami Herald on

Published in Home and Consumer News

At a time when historic homes are being bulldozed in Coral Gables and Miami Beach, one Miami-Dade County village has rallied to preserve and celebrate its architectural heritage.

Miami Shores’ Historic Preservation Board organized a series of events this year to honor a community turning 100 years old. A now-gone real estate development firm, Shoreland Company, created a master plan in 1924. The village, sandwiched between Little River and North Miami, later incorporated in 1932. In the 1920s, only the wealthy could afford to buy homes in the area, and of the 9,000 original residences, only 121 remain.

On a recent May Saturday, five homeowners opened their Mediterranean Revival-style houses to neighbors and strangers for a Centennial Homes Tour. About 150 people navigated from house to house using a map with the names of current owners, addresses and descriptions of each home’s history. A volunteer welcomed guests at each door, and other guides spoke of the home and community’s roots. The event raised nearly $5,000 for community education programming at the community’s Brockway Memorial Library.

Even sweeter for the organizers, events like the Centennial Homes Tour have led to five other residents coming forward in the past two years to request guidance on how to designate their homes as historic. The last designation occurred 30 years ago. Municipal historic designation ensures a home’s protection against demolition from current and future owners.

“What we’re doing is preserving heritage that makes the village so special. That’s our goal,” said Jeffrey Saadeh, a member of the Miami Shores Historic Preservation Board. “We want to make sure that heritage is available to future generations.”

Miami Shores stands as a rare exception to the trend of owners razing historic residences in some of Miami-Dade County’s oldest communities, including Coral Gables, established in 1925, and Miami Beach, founded in 1915. Part of the reason is state legislation from 2022 that makes it easier for owners of residences in flood zones to bypass historic preservation boards and demolish at whim.

 

As a result, both cities lost lauded gems last year, including architect Alfred Browning Parker’s Gables Estates residence and mobster Al Capone’s final residence in Miami Beach. For now, most historic residences in Miami Shores sit safely beyond any flood zone.

Still, Miami Shores does face one countywide threat to preservation — increasing land values. The county’s single-family home prices hit record highs in March — an all-time high of $650,000 — and some areas including Gables Estate have seen values climb to the highest in the country, surpassing areas like Beverly Hills in California.

“The challenge is becoming like in other places,” Saadeh said. “Property values are getting that much more expensive so land value is very expensive. People want to be able to — if they buy a property — build something so they can take full advantage of the lot and build something that can sell for a lot of money. We have to be very vigilant about the assets in the village and meet that challenge.”

‘Not for everyone’

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