City Beautiful’s cultural heritage is being erased

City Beautiful's cultural heritage is being erased

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It is a sad day anywhere when a place’s cultural heritage is being erased, but especially in a city that has “historic” in its DNA.

Sad but true. Coral Gables states that its zoning code is the main document that “preserves the distinctive historic and architectural character of the municipality.”

The nine-member quasi-judicial Historic Preservation Board has a directive to “preserve and protect historic or architecturally worthy buildings, structures, sites, quaint neighborhoods and artifacts which impart a distinct historical heritage of the city.”

Recent actions by the city and the board show otherwise. Last year, the Preservation Board rejected historical designation of the LaSalle property— the only remaining building of the original nine that launched Merrick’s Coral Gables Business District. The board’s denial led to the buildings eventual demolition several months later. Equally significant was that the La Salle Building met all four designation criteria (only one criterion is needed to warrant designation) under the city’s preservation ordinance. Sad but true.

In between, there is the eminent loss of two Sidonia properties within the Garden District, the loss of Miracle Mile’s historical authenticity, and countless demolitions, including the recent demolition of a one-of-a-kind, 1940s Frank Lloyd Wright-style home, built of rare crab orchard stone. Sad but true.

Today, Coral Gables residents can stand to lose yet another historically significant structure, the Mission Revival apartment building located at 333 Catalonia Ave. in the Crafts Section of Coral Gables — one of the few period buildings still standing in that area. In August, the Historic Preservation Board denied designation. The 5-3 vote rejected the city staff’s recommendation to designate the property, which met three criteria under the preservation ordinance. Sad but true.

However, unlike the LaSalle property and the others lost to demolition, 333 Catalonia is still standing, for now.

The Catalonia decision has been appealed by a local resident. The application, submitted to the Coral Gables City Commission, included 30 plus signatures from concerned citizens living within the 1,000 feet radius, who value historic architecture and the preservation of the city’s cultural heritage.

The appeal hearing will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 9 a.m., at City Hall Commission Chambers.

The Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables invites the public to fill the chambers in support of designation. If attendance is not possible, letters of support can be sent to Dona Spain at

Karelia Martinez Carbonell is president of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables.

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