HPACG holds Annual Meeting At Venetian-Style Palazzo On George Merrick’s “Venice Of The South” Historic Waterway

Karelia Martinez Carbonell

Martinez Carbonell is the president of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables

The event was celebrated at the elegant home of HPACG members Ajit and Maria Alicia Asrani. A big thank you to Ajit and Maria Alicia for welcoming the members of the organization to their unique 1927 Venetian-style palazzo. The residence is part of the Venetian Village or “Venetian Country Type Houses”–one of a number of thematic housing developments planned but never fully completed due to the 1926 hurricane and subsequent real estate bust. The home is one of only two identified as part of the “Venetian Village.” It was designed by Phineas Paist. This imposing compound on the edge of the Coral Gables Waterway incorporates the many elaborate details of the Mediterranean Revival style of architecture.

Hosts Ajit and Maria Alicia Asrani welcome guests to their 1927 Venetian-style palazzo.

New and returning members gathered to hear the state of the organization and year-in-review, and ratify the 2022 board slate. 

The new board consists of Karelia Martinez Carbonell, president; Brett Gillis, vice president; and board members-at-large Lisa Bennett; 

Alice Goldhagen; David Mitchell. 

HPACG board members Brett Gillis and Alice Goldhagen.                                 Sabine Scholz and HPACG board member David Mitchell

All attending members received a complimentary HPACG cloth tote bag in support of sustainable initiatives.


Karelia Martinez Carbonell, HPACG president, began her presentation with a quote by a former HPACG board member and past architectural historian for the National Register of Historic Places, who observes, “Without reservation, it is highly apparent that the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables has demonstrated superlative achievement in the field of preservation and has espoused the ideal to save America’s historic places. The focus of HPACG, throughout its existence, is indicative of its desire to protect properties that convey special sense of time and place.”

HPACG board members Brett Gillis and Alice Goldhagen

“State of Affairs at Palazzo” HPACG president Karelia Martinez Carbonell shares state of preservation efforts and year-in-review to members of the organization 

Established in 1991, HPACG marked its 30th anniversary in 2021. With a solid past and an eye to the future, the group continues its mission of promoting the importance of historic resources and their preservation.

For its young age, HPACG has achieved outstanding success in historic preservation efforts. In carrying out its mission, the HPACG has effectively communicated the value of historic preservation to its membership. Through its promotional activities, HPACG has exhibited leadership in issues of importance to historic preservation, and has established itself as one of the leaders in statewide preservation advocacy.

Taking an active part
The Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables has taken an active role in partnering with the City’s historic preservation efforts. Members of the HPACG have been active in supporting applicants for Special Certificates of Appropriateness, variances from the Zoning Code, and determination of historic designation. Moreover, the HPACG disseminates information of the local tax incentives available to owners of historic properties.
In 2021, HPACG and its members advocated and succeeded for the designation of over 10 distinct properties and submitted an application to review designation for Miracle Mile.
Preservation is not just about saving old buildings it is now an important component in saving our planet. 

Sabine Scholz and HPACG board member David Mitchell

HPACG asks the public to please consider the detrimental effects to the environment before any more destruction of the built environment makes way for new construction. Any sustainability initiative must tackle the growing problem.

As for Coral Gables, if the city is serious about attaining carbon neutrality in the near future …it must consider the facts such as that it takes close to 100 years to offset the carbon debt that is incurred when an existing structure is replaced.

Preservation is not just about saving old buildings, it is an important component in saving our planet.

Why is the city NOT integrating the reduction of embodied carbon in its sustainability objectives and its goal of reaching carbon neutrality? 

Why is this issue not being factored in when new projects are being proposed? Why is this issue missing from the Sustainability Advisory Board’s talking points?

For example, the proposed mobility hub [the item is on the March 29th City Commission agenda] is one project that should be rejected on the sole premise of the need to reduce embodied carbon–a sign of support for a sustainable future. Demolishing the existing garage structure [releasing decades of embodied carbon] only to build a new parking garage? Isn’t one of the city’s sustainability objectives the need to reduce cars?  The article, “Carbon Calculus” by Katherine Logan mentions that “Cities worldwide are cutting back on parking requirements” and yet our city of Coral Gables is increasing its parking footprint with a new 10-story parking garage?

The article also mentions how Gensler [mobility hub architects] “adapted a failing 1960s building reducing embodied carbon by 68% of what new construction would be revitalizing a moribund stretch of a historic city block.” Gensler can certainly adapt an existing garage.

“I want architects to understand how critically important this is. If there’s existing building infrastructure on-site, we need to consider whether there’s something we can do with it,” says Andrew Rastetter, an architecturally trained structural engineer in the San Francisco office of Buro Happold. Rastetter and cited on the “Carbon” article.

Below is an excerpt from the National Trust for Historic Preservation that puts in context how new construction adversely affects our planet.

“Arguments that promote a practice of disposable real estate are unsustainable at best and at worst environmentally catastrophic. [There is…] embodied carbon within existing structures, [and] the fact that it can take up to 80 years to offset the carbon debt that is incurred when an existing structure is replaced, even if the new building is highly energy efficient. New buildings…will likely never offset the carbon cost of their construction. We don’t have time to simply build our way to a sustainable future.”

IN 2022 the organization will continue to advocate for preservation of our cultural patrimony and preservation of our planet.  It is encouraged for interested persons to join or renew by visiting http://historiccoralgables.org/join-us/

Donations are also welcomed. Any amount is appreciated. Donors who contribute $250 or more will be recognized in the George Giving Society. All gifts are tax-deductible. Please consult your tax advisor. https://www.historiccoralgables.org/donate/


With your help…HPACG will continue to advance its mission of preservation—in our community and beyond.


4 thoughts on “HPACG holds Annual Meeting At Venetian-Style Palazzo On George Merrick’s “Venice Of The South” Historic Waterway

  1. Coral Gables has gotten UGLIER with the advent of Impact Windows, with no horizontal or vertical mullions or muntins. British Colonial type windows are also not appropriate for the architectural styles of most Gables homes, but neither are the modern Impact windows with huge panes of glass, that are almost “picture” windows. Regarding the mobility hub, it was probably passed for the benefit of the attractive, proposed hotel on the corner of Ponce & Miracle Mile. The height of the Palace/ Municipal garage is the appropriate height for the hub. We need cameras to ticket, without points, the Uber/ Lyft drivers who are congesting downtown Gables. At least get them to behave better.

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