Opinion: All Structures Are Not Historic

By: Coral Gables Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli

Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in our community, the City of Coral Gables has been focused on the well-being of our more than 50,000 residents and our more than 800 team members as they deliver essential services such as law enforcement, fire and rescue service and garbage and trash pick-up. Throughout it all, our other departments, albeit with many working from home have been operating to meet the needs of our residents.

Historic preservation is an issue that is important to many of us personally. Additionally, the protection and safeguarding of our structures gives our city its unique character. In light of the scheduled discussions scheduled for our May 12 City Commission meeting, I wanted to take this opportunity to address this issue.  

The City of Coral Gables is committed to the preservation of our rich history, and architecture. In the last three years the City has expended more than $7 million, restoring and acquiring historic properties. Examples of this are: the $2 million restoration of the Biltmore Golf Course Bridges; $530,000 for the Biltmore Gondola Building; the $2 million acquisition of the Denman Fink Studio on Ponce de Leon Boulevard; the $1.8 million restoration of the Merrick House on Coral Way, George Merrick’s first home; and $800,000 for our continued commitment to the preservation of the Biltmore Hotel. In total this represents a major commitment on the part of our city and this administration. This list doesn’t include the $7 million spent in 2010 to restore the Coral Gables Museum’s historic building.

In the last 10-years of the 85 applications reviewed for historic designation by the Historic Preservation Board, 79 were designated as local historic landmarks and the Coral Way historic district was also designated. In sum, only four applications for historic designation were denied by the Board and one application approved by the Board (229 Ridgewood Road) was overturned by the City Commission. This is an approval rate of more than 90 percent and evidence that members of both our Historic Board and the City Commission are extremely conscientious of the role we play in preserving our history and irreplaceable structures.

Historic Designation sometimes can sometimes have an adverse impact on a property. As the proud owner of a 1925 home that is designated and one in which I have live in for more than 45-years, I understand this issue well. What is especially curious is that some of our City’s strongest preservation proponents fail to seek designation of their own properties.

The City Commission must represent and balance Historic Preservation with the rights of homeowners and take a sensible approach to preserve our rich history as we look to maintain Coral Gables’ distinctive atmosphere and charm.

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13 thoughts on “Opinion: All Structures Are Not Historic

  1. Please tell the residents of Coral Gables what will be open for business, pools, etc., starting this week. Thank you!

  2. I support the remarks for J. Maranos…he is telling it as it is. Just drive South on Ponce to see what is happening across from Hartnett Park looking East…. I am not positive of the street name – could be Palermo … it was in darkness at 12:30 in the afternoon….those enormous buildings block the sun light ….what is happening to our quiet beautiful city of Coral Gables ….why do we have to have these monstrosities…I see nothing wrong with limiting building to two stories…we are a small, successful city, with lovely little shops … delightful eateries … not a metropolis.

  3. What about LaSalle Cleaners? How quickly you forget about that historic building. Weren’t you involved in a development project for that lot Mr. Mayor? Why was that building not historic? A parking lot is?

  4. Why does the Mayor begin his article by patting himself on the back regarding Covid 19? That has nothing to do with historic preservation of the Pancoast home. Neither does the amount of money spent by the city for other historic structures. It will not cost the city anything to preserve this historic structure! No excuses. It is historic by the city’s own criteria. What is there to argue about? Something doesn’t seem to add up here. There must be more to this story.

  5. Thank you for an excellent opinion piece. We have had a home (1889 stable) in Tuxedo Park, NY for over 30 years. The entire village is listed on the National Registrar. It was one of the first developed communities by Pierre Lorillard in 1885 long before George Merrick came to Florida. Historic preservation is a duty of all who live there. I have lived in Coral Gables, “City Beautiful” for for 45 years (30 years east of US 1 (behind the Paseo) and the last 15 years one block off Miracle Mile. I can see the sky. It is difficult to balance how the city can grow, increase tax revenues, maintain services, and preserve such a wonderful city. Presently I believe the City have done an outstanding job of maintaining that balance. The core center is of some concern as the crafts section and inner city should be carefully monitored for high rise growth. Blue skies, sunshine and clouds provide a relaxing, healthy, stress free enviorment. However, the areas that appear to most concern residents such as the metro station areas, Ponce corridor, or the Paseo bordering the main “highway” through our city are where growth will come, so why not now. I also ask the question why residents in beautiful historic homes don’t register. Think property values and pride.

  6. I find the timing of this discussion odd and off putting as we are in the midst of a pandemic with many of our small businesses struggling or worse and many of our residents and their family members ill.
    Our community is in need of safe ways to be outdoors during this time ie; bike lanes, sidewalks, park openings, etc… If you want to address buildings let us discuss the McMansions popping up all over the Gables and the huge commercial buildings that are taking away from the “distinctive atmosphere and charm”. But that can wait for the immediate, can it not.
    INSTEAD isn’t it more prudent that we continue the discussion of getting our city back on track to safely reopening and maybe more support for resident testing and tracing. How about discussing our city purchasing and distributing the necessary PPE for anyone who is working during this time, especially those on the frontline.
    Now is a time to come together to address our wellbeing during the pandemic!

  7. Please note that the May 12th commission meeting the Mayor is referring to will address an appeal to overturn the Historic Preservation Board’s vote to deny historic designation to a 1936-1937 Pancoast-designed property. The landmark designation was NOMINATED by the Mayor’s own staff, the Historic Preservation Resources Department, however, the City Manager refused to appeal the decision prompting a last minute appeal by a neighbor who gathered over 100 letters and close to 60 signatures. The nominated property meets three of the five designation criteria under the City’s Historic Preservation Ordinance [only one criterion is needed for designation]. So to answer the Mayor’s call to “preserve our rich history” this property qualifies as a unique historic resource in its importance. My motto is thus: Preservation is not a zero sum game and it should not be weighed against how many buildings are saved versus how many are sacrificed. The key word is preservation and yes every opportunity that presents itself to preserve a community’s historic nature [whether private or public] should trigger the same reaction: protect the historic integrity of the resource rather than destroy it. If you care to read more about the appeal, please check out the link: https://mailchi.mp/b827f4b0c9c8/pancoast-property-appeal-3853985?e=dd9e05f626

  8. Change is the constant we must all accept!! Having lived on historic Coral Way for 18 years and now a gated community in Gables South for over 25 years, I have seen a lot of changes in the City Beautiful, most for the good!!
    If I have any complaints about what is being approved/constructed, it is the new modern boxes that are built[on Riviera Drive, near Sunset] and in Le Jeune Road, south of US 1.
    Ann Goodman’s comments above are very valid. If some structure is going to be torn down, whether historic or not, the replacement’s style should be in conformance with the previous structure[i.e., if Mediterranean, new build should be Mediterranean!]. As the nephew of a famous architect, Max Borges, known for his famous Tropicana design, I appreciate modern structures but Ms Goodman is correct that one modern box among Mediterranean boxes is wrong!!

  9. Hard to relate “Coral Gables distinctive atmosphere and charm” to the concrete monsters being built on Douglas, Le Jeune, Miracle Mile, Ponce, and US 1. The motivation for building those huge buildings appears to be to get more tax revenue to feed the other monster- the employee pension plan.

  10. Beautifully written comments about historic preservation! Since this was written prior to a discussion about a home on Asturia which the new owners would like to demolish, as a neighbor and real estate agent for over 30 years with a love and appreciation for my beautiful neighborhood , I only ask that if demolished, the new home be somehow in keeping in style and scale to the others current existing. ( it seems to disturb the residents who live in historic districts when a large concrete box is built among lovely homes laden with exquisite details or simple but charming!

  11. In my opinion the Mayor does not support historic preservation. His carefully construed explanation of City Funds for preservation is deliberately sent out today before tomorrow’s meeting that will address yet another historic home that is in danger of being erased from our City’s important history. He does not include the list of the hundreds of demolition permits that were issued in the last few months either. His outdated views, abrupt demeanor and devious ways need to stop. Deliberately causing obstacles for others that truly care about this city’s history is not, in my opinion a wise strategy, in fact it reflects a manipulative and unscrupulous attitude.
    Living in a historic home does not make one a preservationist Mr Mayor!

  12. Nothing is done about new bike paths, we need a bike path along Granada Blvd, Alhambra Circle. With people driving, talking on their cell phones, it is very dangerous to bike ride with no bike path.
    Please help see lives.

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