Photo: Verónica Zaragovia, WLRN WUSF News

“Historic buildings like Art Deco ones in Miami Beach would have been allowed to come down under a bill introduced in the 2023 legislative session…

St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline said she feels relieved that these bills didn’t make it.

‘It would have created more problems than solutions,’ she told WLRN via email…

This came after opponents, including officials from cities like Palm Beach and St. Augustine, spoke up against the legislation that would have allowed any building to come down so long as it stood in high-risk coastal flood zones mapped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and didn’t meet the agency’s requirements for new construction. That would include the majority of historic buildings up and down the state, especially the hundreds of Art Deco structures in Miami Beach. Properties in historic districts would not have been protected except for any individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Senate Bill 1346 and House Bill 1317 received support from Republicans and Democrats, and made it out of the Senate with some amendments, like exclusions for buildings 200 years and older, but didn’t get debated on the House floor.

Opponents feared the measure would allow hundreds of Art Deco and Miami Modern buildings in Miami Beach to be torn down, destroying the character of cities and hurting the tourism economy…

The measure even got attention well outside the state. The National Trust for Historic Preservation sent out a statement urging people to contact elected officials to ask them to vote against it.

‘Florida’s historic districts are irreplaceable architectural, historical, and community treasures,” the National Trust wrote. “Countless private property owners have invested in the rehabilitation of historic buildings in these districts and helped revitalize local economies. For decades, preservation organizations, commission members, architects, developers, and city staff have helped plan and implement successful development projects in historic districts.’

Critics also feared this legislation would encourage what’s known as demolition by neglect — when an owner of a property avoids costly repairs to a building until a building official deems it too unsafe for public use.

When the Deauville Beach Resort — a Miami Modern building built in 1957 — was imploded last November, preservationists accused the owners of abandoning the hotel until it had to get demolished. They had shut it down in 2017 after an electrical fire and later, water damage caused by Hurricane Irma. Despite efforts in court from Miami Beach officials to get the owners to repair it, a judge ruled it had to be demolished due to a public safety risk.

The legislation would have excluded any historic structures listed by name in the National Register of Historic Places. Miami Beach, however, has fewer than 10.

The bill is expected to return in 2024.

The bill sponsor in the House, State Rep. Spencer Roach, has said he plans to reintroduce the measure next session.”

— Verónica Zaragovia, WLRN WUSF News

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