Lincoln Road historic church land to be partially replaced by commercial building

Developers offer $100 million for part of property

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – After several hours in a hearing, Miami Beach's Historic Preservation Board voted unanimously to replace part of a historic church land on Lincoln Road with a new commercial building.

The decision, the latest in a chronic struggle: history and architecture that make Miami Beach iconic vs. money and development that sustains it.

"It's one of the most significant buildings in Miami Beach," said Jeff Donnelly with the Miami Design Preservation League.

Lincoln Road's Miami Beach Community Church was the city's first church, built in 1920 by city founder, Carl Fisher. It was designed by its first registered architect and now is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Developers offered $100 million for part of its property.

Church members overwhelmingly said yes, but historic buildings in historic districts need to appeal to higher authority at city hall.

"Finances is where we began, but it became a much larger conversation with the congregation," said Rev. Harold Thompson, Jr, the church pastor.  "It's about mission. It's about sustainability."

In a nod to history, the board did require developers to put a third of the funds to restore the original church building.

"I believe Carl Fisher would have supported this project," said Thompson. "I believe he wanted the church to live."

Though Carl Fisher's original deed prohibited commercial development on the church property, a judge scrapped that as "unreasonable" back in 1951. 

About the Author:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."