Tower in historic South Beach spot approved by preservation board

New tower on site of historic South Beach hotels approved
New tower on site of historic South Beach hotels approved

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – A crown jewel of South Beach’s historic Art Deco scene will be restored — and joined by a tall new residential tower.

A 200-foot, 18-story glass tower was proposed to be built on property right next door to the historic Raleigh Hotel, which opened in 1940 on Collins Avenue and is world-renowned for its architecture and one-of-a-kind pool.

In order to make room for the tower, developers want to demolish a portion of two other historic hotels right next door — the Richmond, and South Seas, while at the same time restoring their front lobbies.

During a meeting Tuesday with the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board, developers presented altered plans, scaling down the size of the new tower, which opponents view as too large and not in character with the surrounding district.

The board voted to approve the application, but the developers must restore The Raleigh to original grandeur first, and The Raleigh would be designated only for hotel use.

Developers conceded to reduce their height of the proposed condo tower from 200 feet to 175 feet, and from 18 floors to 16.

“The Raleigh Hotel is the crown jewel of Miami Beach,” developer Michael Shvo said in a statement. “This approval marks a new milestone in the partnership between SHVO, South Beach and the surrounding community. SHVO will continue to honor Miami’s rich history and culture. We vow to play a significant role in the city’s continued growth and transformation.”

The development company says the project is estimated to cost $750 million, and it comes after The Raleigh Hotel was purchased from Tommy Hilfiger in February 2019 for $103 million, and the Richmond and South Seas were bought for a combined $140 million in August 2019.

There is still concern the new building could shade the iconic Raleigh pool from southern exposure, and that it could change the face of a historic location.

“We can’t destroy our Art Deco district one hotel at a time,” former Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez said. “It’s just way too big. The developer is trying to make concessions, knocking off five feet here and five feet there, but at the end of the day, it’s a massive 200-foot condo tower.”

Opponents are also worried about the precedent it would set for future development.

Proposed tower near historic South Beach hotels met with criticism
Proposed tower near historic South Beach hotels met with criticism

“It’s going to set a terrible precedent that any developer can come to Miami Beach, purchase a historic Art Deco hotel, and then hold it hostage,” Gonzalez said.

The counter to that is the belief that the tower will add to the site and keep the historic Raleigh Hotel from sitting empty and deteriorating.

“There is absolutely no impact on Raleigh Hotel,” board member Nancy Liebman said. “The purpose of having this building is to save The Raleigh.”

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