The historic architecture of our cities gives it the character that distinguishes Miami from Paris or New York from Montréal. Trends in architecture have existed since as far as we could see what our neighbors were doing. Europeans brought over their architectural style to the Americas, and New York and Chicago’s early skyscrapers inspired similar buildings throughout North America.
Similarities in buildings exist throughout the world. With Modern and Post-Modern architecture, almost identical glass box office buildings sprouted throughout the world. Each city has taken these global trends and slightly altered them to fit their local climate, customs and needs. These variations are what makes each city unique and interesting. When these buildings stand the test of time and generations pass, they become timeless and part of the everyday urban fabric that we begin to take for granted. These historic buildings are what locals can look at with pride and see their city’s history written in the buildings that continue to stand.
In Miami, historic preservation has always been a challenge. Miami has been blessed and equally cursed with fast growth in population and development throughout its history. Miami’s population growth has slowed in the last couple decades, but construction of new skyscrapers in its urban neighborhoods has put pressure on its most historic buildings. Since 2000, a disheartening amount of historic buildings have been demolished to make way for taller, sleeker high-rises. These buildings are nice, but they don’t have the charm of the city’s oldest buildings. Buildings like the Freedom Tower, the Dade County Courthouse and the DuPont Building inspire awe and reverence to the city. Without them, it would be easy to forget Miami has a history beyond Miami Vice at all.
Fortunately, a large number of historic skyscrapers are still standing in the city. Although Miami’s track record in historic preservation has always been shoddy, it is never too late. Developers have begun to see the benefits of historic preservation. The Miami National Bank Building, built in 1925, is currently undergoing a renovation to be converted from an office tower to a boutique hotel. In 2009, the historic 1920s bank at 101 East Flagler Street was reconverted into apartments after being an office tower for over 80 years. A stronger sense of respect for the city’s history could signal greater successes in historic preservation.
Miami has an extensive amount of vacant parcels in every neighborhood. Brickell, the city’s most desired neighborhood, has vacant parcels on almost every block. Downtown, Omni and Edgewater all have many blocks of vacant parcels, and the same can be said of Little Havana, Wynwood and the Upper Eastside. There’s no need to demolish to build. We have enough vacant parcels to satisfy demand for years to come. Development is certainly welcomed in the city, and every new high-rise that is announced is always exciting. Let’s just not forget our roots as we grow.
How is historic preservation in your area?
- U.S. National Register of Historic Places: Historic buildings of Miami
- Metro Jacksonville, 30 November 2010: Revitalizing Warehouse Districts: The Design District