County board upholds demolition of Miami Beach hotel. So when will Deauville go down?

·3 min read
Pedro Portal/pportal@miamiherald.com

A last-ditch effort by Miami Beach preservationists to stop the demolition of a hotel that once hosted the Beatles failed Thursday when a Miami-Dade County board upheld an order to tear down the Deauville Beach Resort.

The Miami-Dade Board of Rules and Appeals voted 9-0 to uphold the decision of Miami Beach Building Official Ana Salgueiro, who said the 1957 building was unsafe and should be demolished.

Another engineer, who was hired by the owners of the hotel, the Meruelo family, had recommended that it be demolished. The building has been closed since 2017 following an electrical fire.

The Miami Design Preservation League appealed the order, arguing that it did not follow the city’s historic preservation laws and that the Meruelo’s engineering report was flawed.

“We’re disappointed with this decision,” MDPL Executive Director Daniel Ciraldo said. “Basically what it means is that any building official can unilaterally decide that a historic landmark should be demolished in circumvention of local government policy around the processes.”

Salgueiro issued the order in January after touring the property. She said she confirmed the findings in an engineering report authored by structural engineer Heather Anesta, who was hired by the Meruelo family.

What about asbestos? Resident notice? Some answers about the demolition of the Deauville

Demolition work began in March with the removal of the hotel’s metallic red sign and its driveway canopy, but the owners are required to remove the asbestos in the property before proceeding with tearing down the rest of the building.

Initially, the implosion of the 17-story tower portion of the complex had been planned for June 1 — to knock it down before hurricane season — but Salgueiro said she doesn’t believe the demolition will take place next month.

A county spokeswoman said the asbestos contractor expects the removal to be completed “on or before September 2022.”

The planned demolition of the sprawling hotel complex has angered residents in the North Beach area of the city who consider the Deauville a cultural gem. The hotel famously hosted a live performance by the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964.

Salgueiro said she has a personal connection to the Deauville. It was where her high school prom was held.

“But I cannot make decisions based on my emotions, I can only make decisions based on what I’m seeing when I’m going through the building,” she said.

Upset residents urged the board to reverse the order.

Under local law, the city cannot issue a demolition permit for a historic property unless the Historic Preservation Board approves it. But there are exceptions when the city’s building official issues a “lawful order” or when a structure poses an “immediate” threat to safety, according to the code.

If the building is demolished without Historic Preservation input, the board has the authority to require that the building that goes up in its place has the same height and density of the previous structure.

Members of the county board said Thursday that their scope was limited to whether Salgueiro complied with the Florida Building Code in issuing her order. They agreed that she had.

“We are not here to talk about proms or whether or not this place was occupied by the Ronald Reagan committee in 1968,” board member Alfonso Fernandez-Fraga said. “All we’re here to talk about is the code.”

Matias Dorta, an attorney for the Deauville, said the engineering assessment conducted on behalf of the hotel owners was thorough and corroborated by Salgueiro and a team of inspectors who accompanied her during a January site visit.

“This was the last-ditch effort,” he said. “The building official acted appropriately and as the board concluded, she followed her responsibilities according to the code.”

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