The future of the iconic Miami Herald building may be decided by the end of the year, but the Dade Heritage Trust is still hoping to save it.
The group will push its case at a first public hearing Monday hosted by the Miami Historic and Environmental Preservation Board to decide if the newspaper’s Downtown home should be considered historically significant.
If so designated, the Herald's brown fortress would be saved from demolition at the hands of Genting Resorts World, a Malaysian gambling consortium that spent $235 million to purchase the waterfront property with plans to turn it into the world's largest casino. The final vote by the board will be made at a meeting in November or December.
In September 2011, Genting presented a proposal for a 10 million square-foot resort on the bay, including four hotels, two condo towers, dozens of restaurants and bars, and a luxury shopping mall. (Story continues below.)
However, the company must wait for approval from state legislature to get a gaming license. Since the proposal went unaddressed in the last legislative session, Genting has claimed it will scale back its massive plans for the property -- though many doubt the company actually plans to do so as it continues to make considerable political contributions throughout Florida.
Meanwhile, the Dade Heritage Trust has been working to rescue architects Naess and Murphy's Miami Modern-style box, the paper's home since 1963, by encouraging the historical designation of One Herald Plaza. In July, a joint proposal was created by the Historic Preservation Program at the University of Florida and the Trust, outlining the significance of the building and how it meets not one, but four of the six historical designation criteria:
Opened in 1963, the Miami Herald Building embodies many of the ideals and characteristics that came to define Miami’s postwar era and its architecture. Its significance is further reinforced by its association with some of twentieth-century America’s leading figures in the newspaper industry and architecture,” according to the proposal.
“No one in their right mind could deny that it has history there,” Becky Roper Matkov, executive director of the Dade Heritage Trust, told HuffPost. “I don't’ see how anyone can deny the incredible half a century of history that the Herald has not only covered but made in so many ways with their leadership, their 19 Pulitzer Prizes -- I would be very amazed if people sitting on a preservation board could not appreciate all the Herald symbolizes as far as the role it’s played in Miami history.”
Roper Matkov said multiple meetings to urge Genting executives to preserve the exterior of the building have failed (the company previously called preservation "an affront to smart urban planning"). She cited examples such as the reuse of the Lincoln Theater in Miami Beach for an H&M store, and the Mayfair in Coconut Grove, now repurposed into office space.
Not all preservation advocates support the Trust's case. In an opinion piece published by the Herald on Sept. 4, Richard J. Heisenbottle, a preservation architect formerly a member of the City of Miami Historic Preservation Board, and Ivan Rodriguez, a former Miami-Dade County Historic Preservation Officer, outlined their belief the building doesn’t meet preservation standards.
“Formally designating the structure as historic would only perpetuate a bad urban condition and glorify the mistakes of the past,” the two wrote.
Rober Matkov remains undeterred.
“The idea that history is so optional and unimportant... you have to take stands for it,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be absolutely the best architecture in the world to be worthy of being saved."
Monday's public hearing will be held at 2 p.m. in the Miami City Hall Commission Chambers.