MIAMI BEACH ND THE MIAMI DESIGN PRESERVATION LEAGUE
The Miami Design Preservation League falls into that ignoble category of preservation organizations whose existance is based on accomplishing a single goal. In this case, placing Miami Beach's Art Deco District on the Histaic Register. However, the MDPL rises above any short-sightedness by remaining just as vigorous after accomplishing its original intent. Having seen the district safely on to the register, the MDPL is still activly pushing for intelligent and sensitive developement of the Art Deco historical district.
Since the MDPL is so closely involved with all of Miami Beach, it is important to have a deeper understanding of the whole area.
Developement of Miami Beach started in 1914 at the southern tip of the island, known as the Southern Shore and has moved north from there. The South Shore was divided into small lots for residential use. This venture was so successful that land values rose 1800 per cent between 1914 and 1925. The next part of the island to develope v/as the central section, between 5"^Street and Dade Boulevard. This section was comprised of larger hotels and lead to the decline of the South Shore that continues today. Then in 1926 the boom of the central section ended as a result of over speculation. However by 1930 Miami Beach had recovered.
It is during this second boom period that the area recieved its Art Deco character. ?re correctly refered to as Streamline Moderne. It is this part or the island that has a cohesiveness seldom found anywhere. This compatability is due to the fact that most of the' buildings were designed by a few architects working for a couple of developers. This middle section of the island flourished no longer
than the South Shore and by the end of the 40's it had stagnated. The next phase of growth took place again to the north and it was along the thin strip of land between the Collins Canal and the ocean that such giants as theFontainebleau and the Eden Roc were built. This last spurt of developement was encouraged by the easy access that resulted from the reduced air fares of the 50's and60's. And during this time the central Deco district followed the course of its southern neighbor and entered aperiod of decline that lasted until today. The very thing that contributed to the prosperity of the northern section, cheaper air fare, also made Europe, Hawaii and the Caribean more accessible so that by the late 60's this part of Miami began to slide into a stupor similar to its southern neighbors.
The area is now entering its fourth phase of developement. This latest boom is ascribed to the current recession/inflation. Many people can nolonger afford foreign travel. The dollar devaluation makes overseas expenses too high. All this has lead to more Americans traveling in this country and more foreigners coming here as well. Many of them to south Florida and Miami Beach.
It is this latest phase of developement that lias lead to the formation of the MDPL. This league was started five years ago by a group of mostly interior designers from south Florida- Its princeple founder and board chairman is Barbra Capitraan. With increased developement ahead, the organization sought historic status for the area. This would increase incentive to save existing structures by offering grants and tax breaks to those willing to restore buildings. The MDPL sought in educate the public to the value of preserving the Deco style of architecture. It is a valuable link between the eclectic style of architecture and modernist design. By May of 1977 the district was
placed on the National Register and granted historic status. Quite an accomplishment for many buildings less than 50 years old!
': i This action came none too soon for plans have already been made to raze the South Shore save a few of the existing structures.
Now that the battle is won the rest of the war remains to fought. Plans have also been made to revitalize the Washington Avenue area and to re-design the Lincoln Street Mall. Ten buildings are now being restored, including the Cardoza Hotel with 15 investors behind it.
The picture is not as bright as it could be though. Some buildings such as the New Yorker Hotel have already been destroyed and being an the National Register will not prevent destruction of others. To save the district from more of the same, developers must be made aware of just how valuable the homogenity of the area is and how essential it is that that quality be saved for future generations. This is the present task Of the Miami Design Preservation League.