Residents of Miami’s Shenandoah neighborhood have launched efforts to preserve their historic homes with a grassroots movement to officially designate one of the original plats of land and surrounding properties as a City of Miami Historic District.
The Miami Shenandoah Neighborhood Association (MSNA) recently held a preservation workshop at Shenandoah Middle School where neighbors, city officials, architects, and friends gathered to educate stakeholders about the process.
“We asked the Shenandoah Neighborhood Association to empower us to stop the unscrupulous demolition of homes being replaced by new white boxes,” said Lazaro Priegues, event moderator and area homeowner.
Priegues said Shenandoah has one of the larger collections of historic homes in the city of Miami and the area chosen specifically includes the best concentration of homes from the 1920s and 1930s.
Aristides Millas, University of Miami professor emeritus and architect, said they are Mediterranean Revivalist in style.
“It is a term coined in South Florida and started in Coral Gables where elements of Mediterranean architecture from Italy and Spain come together…tiled roofs, curved columns, peep holes, grouped windows, higher ceilings, blush colors….in a playful eclectic style,” Millas said.
Shenandoah was once undeveloped farmland established in 1919 by developers from Virginia who named it so to evoke the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley and offered would-be homeowners a citrus tree or crate of citrus to entice sales, according to Miami Historian Dr. Paul George.
The neighborhood today runs from SW Eighth Street to Coral Way (SW22nd Street) and from 12th Avenue to 27th Avenue.
“It was a beautiful middle class neighborhood with deep Southern and Jewish residents as well as Syrian and Lebanese immigrants well into the 1950s before the suburban influx of Cubans and other Latinos,” Dr. George said.
Today the commercial district is a trendy extension of Downtown with a classic Miami international flavor. Middle Eastern markets share Coral Way with Cuban cigar shops and fine dining from all over Latin America and Europe. There are ample hipster watering holes as well in between a strong presence of Yoga and Buddhist meditation centers. Houses of worship like St. Sophia, St Peter and Paul, Temple Beth David, and Our Lady of Lebanon anchor the old banyan tree-lined streets.
The area being considered to designate historic is from SW14th Avenue to SW22nd Avenue and from Ninth Street to 13th Street, according to MSNA president Jed Royer.
“This is a conservation effort to mitigate the needless destruction of historic homes,” Royer said. “We are in the exploration, information and assessment stage.”
Royer said they are approaching the issue with care because of potential zoning changes in the future that would affect homeowners.
“Communication is key and our job as stewards of the neighborhood is to listen more than talk,” he said.
City of Miami Preservation Officer Megan Cross Schmitt said once an official application is in house they will review the research and notice affected residents for outreach meetings before a preliminary evaluation report comes before the Historic Preservation Board.