By Dr. Karelia Martinez Carbonell, Local Preservationist
The case for preservation is clearly written in the City’s local designation report.
The Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables is lending its support to neighbors in the latest battle to save 603 Minorca, a 1922 cottage in jeopardy. Residents are no longer sitting down; they are taking a stand. For the first time, the organization added a new social media platform to its campaign strategy in order to push the information to more people. The change.org platform was introduced to help reach more people and gather more signatures in support of the latest petition. In less than 24 hours, over 100 signatures were gathered. The goal is to reach 700 before the city’s next preservation board meeting on October 21st.
The 1922 cottage with its original coral rock foundation, designated a historic landmark in 2005, is in danger. The City’s preservation staff is supporting the relocation of the property as per owner’s request to split the lots and develop a 2-story new construction on one of the lots.
The owner’s intent to move the historic property will put the original 100-year old coral rock foundation at risk of not only losing historical designation but collapsing. The owner’s proposal states, “The new concrete foundation and stem wall will be built to the same height as the existing and clad with coral rock set in the same manner as the original.”
The case for preservation is clearly written in the city’s local designation report which states, “The uniqueness of this home is characterized by the size of the property…it is one of the few homes of this type to still exist on such a large parcel of land while maintaining its integrity.”
In opposition to what is stated in the designation report, the city staff’s recommendation overlooks the fact that the lot is a significant characteristic trait. In effect, the subdivision of the lot will negate the designation.
Approving the staff’s recommendation will not only negate the City’s 2005 historic designation of the property, it will:
1. Jeopardize the delicate and environmentally protected 100- year old coral rock stem and ultimately damage [or destroy] the historic resource;
2. Negatively impact the historic integrity of the whole property [including house and green space];
3. Compromise the property’s historic designation as per the 2005 local designation report, and;
4. Set a bad precedent for the future of historic properties in Coral Gables that sit on extra lots.
Below is the petition drafted and signed by a group of aggrieved neighbors.
One of the greatest assets of living in our various Coral Gables neighborhoods is the way that each area has its distinctive significance and character, reflecting the original vision and early history of our “City Beautiful.” The northern streets of “Old Coral Gables” were the first to be developed by founder George Merrick, and include the earliest homes in the area, dating from 1920s. The different styles of the houses provide a virtual textbook of the distinctive architectural heritage that makes our community unique, and offer the wonderful experience of a coherent, human-scale neighborhood encompassing the array of historic landmarks that attracted all of us who are privileged to live in this City.
Preserving these special qualities requires constant vigilance from neighbors who are committed to the unique environment and community spirit that make each section of the City so special and desirable. An essential part of this spirit is the protection of landmark homes from inappropriate alterations that compromise their historic and artistic integrity, and diminish the quality of all of our experience and sense of this beautiful place.
We want to bring your attention to plans currently being considered for approval by the Historic Preservation Board of Coral Gables for the major alteration of one of the most significant landmarks of the Old Gables neighborhood, located at 603 Minorca Avenue. This charming stucco and stone cottage, designed by one of the “first generation” architects, H. George Fink, was built in 1922 as one of the very first structures in the area. It is located on a gracious large double lot, surrounded by a broad lawn, as conceived in the original design, and, unlike most houses that followed it, is constructed on a rare coral rock stem foundation, integrated with the structure, including the chimney. This home was designated a Historic Landmark in 2005, for qualities that included “the uniqueness of the size of the property… still maintaining its integrity.”
The application for a Special Certificate of Appropriateness, legally designated as COA (SP) 2020-007, is now being considered by the Historic Preservation Board of the City. It calls for the relocation of the house to a far corner of the property to accommodate the construction of a new two story house next to it. We are alarmed that aside from the intrusion on the existing scale of the street, previous examples of attempts to move such century old structures on original coral rock foundations have resulted in complete collapse.
We are asking you to sign on to this petition via https://www.change.org/keep603minorca
Expressing your opposition to the granting of this Certificate by the City is of utmost importance to our City Beautiful. The collective voices of a significant number of concerned neighbors will help prevent this compromise of the historic and structural integrity both of this important century-old landmark, and of the ambiance and cohesiveness of all of our beautiful neighborhoods. Moreover, it will also be a statement of concern against this troubling trend of inappropriate alterations- and even demolitions- that undermine the intent and spirit of Coral Gables’ nationally respected commitment to the protection and preservation of its unique architectural and community heritage.