First the Bumbling, Then the Crumbling

What's that pile of rubble doing on the corner of Fifth and Meridian? That's how they protect historically significant buildings in South Beach!

As for the fortunate partners of Burmon Investment Inc., they appear to be free and clear. "It would seem to me that because the property owner was issued a legal demolition permit, I don't know if the city [can demand] restitution," comments senior planner Thomas Mooney.

According to William Cary, the property owners' chances of securing an extension from the joint Design Review/Historic Preservation Board "would have been close to nil. I don't think there would've been a snowball's chance in Hell of that happening," he mutters.

"I'm extremely disgusted," continues the historic preservation coordinator, who was on vacation near Tampa when the demolition occurred. "The developer knew exactly what he was doing. I just think it's really unfortunate when someone knowingly and intentionally exploits a loophole and in doing so unravels the very reason people come to Miami Beach."

Dr. Rafael Burgos, Sr., one of the partners in Burmon Investment, Inc., and the owner of the clinic that once occupied the site, is smug. "The city gave the permit," he says with a laugh. "If the people want to preserve the building, they can put it back together tomorrow." Did he know the building was historically significant? "I don't know anything," he replies, then adds, "Ponce de Leon was a tenant in the building, you know that? You also know who was there? Christopher Columbus! And the Indians first. The Seminoles owned this piece of land -- they had their main office there!"

There's plenty of irony in the fact that the building was flattened right in the middle of a celebrated historic district. But there's even more to it than that: As the dust settled at the corner of Fifth and Meridian, just half a mile away a little ceremony was under way. There, at the intersection of Tenth Street and Washington Avenue, preservationists and several of the city's elected officials had gathered to rename Tenth Street in honor of a historic Miami Beach figure. The honoree? The late Barbara Baer Capitman, founder of the Beach's historic preservation movement.

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