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Miami's Historic Preservation Battle: Condo Towers vs Sagamore Hotel

Miami Beach, known for its stunning architecture and vibrant cultural heritage, is currently embroiled in a contentious debate that has pitted the allure of modern luxury against the preservation of its rich historical identity. The bone of contention revolves around the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board's consideration of allowing the construction of a 15-story glass condo tower behind the iconic Sagamore hotel, situated in the heart of a Miami Beach historic district.

Proposed Condo Development

The proposed development, initiated by the condominium's owners, has stirred up fervent opposition from various quarters, including notable individuals, interest groups, and concerned residents, who are rallying to safeguard the district's historical essence.

Historic Architect Perspectives

Among the dissenting voices is renowned historic architect Steve Avdakov, a fervent advocate for the preservation of Miami Beach's architectural legacy, who asserts, "Allowing the construction of a towering glass structure in such close proximity to the Sagamore Hotel would irreversibly compromise the district's unique character and historic ambiance."

Neighboring Hotel Owners Perspectives

The Ritz Carlton, another key stakeholder in the vicinity, has expressed reservations regarding the potential impact of the development on the local landscape and culture. A spokesperson for the Ritz Carlton articulated their concerns, stating, "We believe that any development in this historic area should be in harmony with the existing architectural context. The proposed condo tower could overshadow the intrinsic charm that draws visitors to this area and jeopardize the delicate balance between modernization and preservation." Said Avdakov: “It’s recognized nationally for that and internationally. You have visitors that come here to spend a lot of money on Miami Beach for this distinctive character." Preservationists want to protect that distinctive character. In decades past, the main threat to historic buildings has been demolition. Avdakov says the proposed building is currently an “incompatible development right in the core of the district.”

Condo Building Owners Perspectives

The owners of the luxury condo tower, however, are advocating for the project's approval, emphasizing the potential economic benefits it could bring to the area. In a statement, they emphasized, "Our proposed development will bring a new level of luxury living to Miami Beach, fostering economic growth and creating job opportunities within the community. We are committed to integrating contemporary design elements that pay homage to the neighborhood's heritage."

Condo Building Current Status

Despite the promise of economic stimulus, historical architects, preservationists, and concerned residents remain steadfast in their opposition, citing several crucial reasons. First and foremost, the towering structure's visual prominence would undermine the historical significance of the Sagamore Hotel and disrupt the architectural harmony that defines the district. Additionally, the potential influx of modern developments might pave the way for a domino effect, gradually eroding the unique appeal that attracts tourists and residents alike to the area.

Steve Avdakov and his firm, Heritage Architectural & Associates, has been at the forefront of the Miami, Florida historic preservation movement and deeply involved in the Sagamore project. “This is like the golden era skyline from the Art Deco Districts, one of the most significant Art Deco Districts of the world. So, whatever is placed there, in accordance with the regulations, it needs to defer to that. It needs to be complimentary to that,” states Avdakov.

The possiblility of increased traffic congestion, strain on public services, and environmental impact have galvanized community members to challenge the proposed development vigorously. Moreover, the psychological and emotional attachment that residents and tourists hold for the historic district is a critical aspect that cannot be overlooked. The historical value of the area serves as a reminder of the city's rich cultural heritage, serving as architectural icons that encapsulate the essence of a fond remembrance of the era. The potential for dilution of this essence through the intrusion of conspicuously disparate architecture has raised concerns about the preservation of Miami Beach's unique and desirable identity.

UPDATE: 10-20-23

The Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, approved a proposed luxury condominium building that would go up behind the historic Sagamore Hotel on Collins Avenue. The board allowed the building’s height to remain at 183 feet, but required additional revisions to specific location of the tower from the ocean side. Since the approved condo building will be the tallest on the block, the board requires a setback of at least 15 feet to the west starting at the 50th foot on upwards. Some said they hoped this would help preserve historic skyline views from the boardwalk.

Read more - Miami Beach Board greenlights condo tower


As development within Miami Beach andn Daded County continues to escalate and evolve, the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board finds itself at the crossroads of a pivotal decision that will not only shape the landscape of the historic district but also set a precedent for future development initiatives. The balance between honoring the past and embracing progress is a tightrope that demands thoughtful consideration and prudent decision-making. Only time will tell whether Miami Beach will prioritize its cultural legacy over the allure of contemporary development, and if it will succumb to the pressures of rapid modernization at the cost of Miami's historical identity.

Heritage Architectural & Associates provide a road map to preserve, protect and integrate historic buildings into adaptive use or other appropriate venues.


Visit our portfolio to review the Hampton House restoration project in Miami, Florida.
Read more - Hampton House in Miami



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