MIAMI – Monday was the end of an era for the historic Miami Herald building, as part of the building was demolished to make way for a development by Resorts World Miami.
It was a shock to morning commuters who snapped pictures of the explosion and sent them to Local 10.
A Miami Herald photographer captured the explosive moment when the south side of the paper's iconic downtown building came crashing down, sending white plumes of smoke billowing across the water.
There was no fanfare and no news conference to mark the moment when a bit of Miami history crumbled.
Interior demolition has been underway for months but this was the first time a portion of the exterior walls were demolished.
For more than half a century the Miami Herald building greeted all those who crossed Biscayne Bay's sparkling blue waters to and from Downtown Miami along the MacArthur Causeway.
"We were a presence here in downtown," said the paper's current courts reporter David Ovalle.
While iconic, a Miami preservation board in December of 2012 decided it did not merit historic landmark status in a five-to-three vote, which cleared the way for demolition.
International casino operator powerhouse Genting, from Malaysia, bought the site three years ago with big plans for a destination casino resort. Despite intense lobbying efforts they have yet to convince state lawmakers to allow the kind of gambling their grand vision had called for.
Company officials said a smaller scale mixed-use development is still in the works to include turning the path behind the Miami Herald building into a public promenade they call BayWalk (pictured below).
Genting bought the roughly 5-acre site, along with other surrounding parcels, in hopes of developing a luxury destination casino resort called Resorts World Miami. That vision was dashed when state lawmakers did not pass legislation that would have green lighted the casino component of the project.
But the Malaysian-based company can play a long game. When you plunk down half a billion dollars into waterfront property you mean business, so while casino gambling is off the table now, Genting Chairman K.T. Lim knows it doesn't mean it will be forever.
Back in December of 2012 The Dade Heritage Trust argued the mid-20th Century building was worth preserving, but the Miami preservation board disagreed. In a 5-3 vote the board decided 1 Herald Plaza did not warrant landmark protection.
That means Genting's demolition and construction plans continue, albeit on a smaller scale.
In the past, company officials have said they are in talks with prominent luxury hotel brands eager to establish a presence in Downtown Miami.
Plans still include turning the paved path behind the Miami Herald site into a public promenade. For the first time since 1962 you will be able to walk along that stretch of waterfront.
The 800 foot-long, 50-foot-wide so-called BayWalk will connect the Adrienne Arsht Center and Museum Park.
On Monday, Christian Goode, president of Resorts World Miami told Local 10, "Demolition of the former Miami Herald building's exterior walls has begun as expected, marking the first step in the transformation of one of downtown Miami's most important waterfront sites. Once completed, Resorts World Miami will be a critical anchor for downtown, combining residential, hotel and retail uses and providing public access to Biscayne Bay and Museum Park."
Genting officials said BayWalk will also allow for what is called a 200-foot "view corridor."
Basically, the waters from Downtown Miami will be able to be seen, something the Herald's building has blocked out of view since 1962.
ROLL THE DICE:
Back in November 2011, Local 10 spoke to Chairman K.T. Lim in a rare interview. In fact it was one of just a handful of television interviews ever granted in the company's nearly 50-year history.
"Typically, the low-profile way of getting things done is very much an Asian sort of culture," explained Lim. "So what is more important to us is talk less and do more, so the end result is important rather than try to boast of what one is capable of doing, so the end result should speak for itself."
Genting is the largest casino operator in the UK after buying British casino operator Stanley Leisure. The company founded Star Cruises, Asia's largest cruise operator. It also owns 50 percent of Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line.
"Ten years ago, I was the one who was responsible to buy Norwegian Cruise Line," explained Lim.
Lim said he's been vacationing in Miami since he was a college student at the University of London. He has always felt comfortable in Miami because the hot and humid climate is very similar to Singapore's.
"I would, if you may, backpac' because this is the place where the weather is the same. It's not London weather," he said.
"We would like to bring our experience in Asia, especially in terms of developing destination resorts, which we have done for the last 50 years. We need to be the catalyst to bring new people here, to enjoy not just the destination resort, but the rest of what is here in Miami and ultimately through the state of Florida."
A company spokesman did not know when construction would likely start on their proposed BayWalk concept that is said to include waterfront dining and shopping.
With or without a casino, Genting in Miami here to stay, a company with the patience and capital to wait out what they expect to be changing views on casino gambling.
The Miami Herald has moved its operations to a new facility in Doral.