The Ten Most Endangered Places in Miami
Miami is a city with some serious problems. Sure, there’s the looming threat of sea level rise due to climate change (sorry Rick Scott, it’s a fact), but that’s just part of the all-important lime pie. South Florida has more than just a few environmental, political, and financial problems.
And unfortunately, our collective problems have had very real consequences. Some of Miami’s greatest places – from historic landmarks to rare ecosystems – are threatened for existence.
To let you know what the city may be losing, the New Times spoke to heritage conservation and environmental conservation experts to find out which places in the city are most at risk – and why they’re worth saving. You better hurry if you want to see them before they go away. (Better yet, read on for some ideas on how to save them.)
10. Dr. DuPuis doctor’s practice and drugstore
History is abundant in Lemon City – now officially known as Little Haiti. A notable landmark is the office of Dr. John DuPuis, a pioneering physician who settled in Miami in the early 20th century. He founded White Belt Dairy and the Dade County Agricultural School, and his office is a prime example of Miami’s early architecture. Dr. DuPuis used the office until his death in 1955.
However, in recent years it has been abandoned and is not holding up well.
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“It has a great arcade and it is falling,” says Christine Rupp, executive director of the Dade Heritage Trust. An area developer is interested in restoring the building, she says. “But if something isn’t done soon, it will likely fall down.”
9. North Beach
While South Beach attracts the most attention, North Beach has many charms of its own, including some notable architecture. In particular, it’s a style known as Miami Modern that was popular in the post-war period. The North Beach Bandshell is a prime example.
“Miami Modern is a style that is similar to Art Deco,” explains Daniel Ciraldo, the preservation officer for the Miami Design Preservation League. “It really wasn’t identified as a style of its own until recently.” Two areas of North Beach are listed as historic by the federal government, but that is only voluntary, says Ciraldo, so there is no local protection against demolition. Local advocates are working to expand the designations so the area can balance development and conservation.
“We believe it has so much potential for revitalizing neighborhoods. [Miami modern buildings] are really funky and unique and add a lot of character. ”
If you want to see Miami’s modern style stay on track, you can support PlanNoBe, a master plan designed to revitalize the area and maintain its architectural integrity.
8. Coconut Grove Playhouse
Another landmark that was long uninhabited, the Coconut Grove Playhouse was once the cultural hub of the Bay Area. Designed by architects Kiehnel and Elliott in 1926 as the “imaginative Spanish rococo movie palace” (in the words of the City of Miami Historic Preservation Commissioner), it was later remodeled by architect Alfred Browning Parker and became the city’s first live theater, the stage for stories by Tennessee Williams and Samuel Beckett.
“Kiehnel and Elliott were both master architects of the time; they’re a bit like our own Frank Lloyd Wright, ”says Ciraldo. In 2005 the city declared the place a historical landmark and money was made available for the renovation. In 2015, the architecture firm Arquitectonica was awarded the contract for the redesign.
But despite the interest of many stakeholders and ongoing efforts to get the work started, the playhouse faces the same threat as the Miami Marine Stadium – disuse. As Rupp says: “The longer something sits, the more it deteriorates.”
7. Little Havana
This famous neighborhood is more than just a destination for tourists who want to play dominoes and smoke a few Cubans. It’s one of the most diverse – and affordable – neighborhoods in the city. And it’s at risk because of the division and the advancing development, says Ciraldo. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named the area “America’s Most Endangered Historic Site” in 2015.
“The developers at Brickell have run out of land so they want to go west,” he explains. Upzoning refers to changing the zoning in a neighborhood to allow for taller buildings and greater building density.
“It’s like our own version of Ellis Island. It’s our city’s melting pot and we’re a city of immigrants, so it’s important that we protect Little Havana’s heritage.”
Last year the city created a small historic neighborhood in East Little Havana, but the rest of the area is still at risk. “We want to keep this unique part of our inner city and not rub it out with a pile of skyscrapers. That is our hope with Little Havana.”
6. Miami-Dade County Courthouse
We all know the downtown justice center, the Miami-Dade County Courthouse. But who knew it was in danger? The historic building has fallen into disrepair, says Ciraldo, and there are discussions about whether it is worth preserving. There is a push for a new building but no consensus on what would happen to the old one.
“When it was built, it was the tallest building in Florida – 28 stories,” he says. “It’s a great icon of downtown Miami and an architectural gem. On the conservation side, we’d appreciate the county finding a way to restore and preserve it.
“It is part of the legal memory of our district – so much history has happened there – and now the question is whether the district will take responsibility for the preservation of monuments or not.”