The Ten Most Endangered Places in Miami

Snorkelers on an elkhorn reef in Biscayne National Park.
Snorkelers on an elkhorn reef in Biscayne National Park.
Courtesy of National Park Service

Miami is a city with some serious issues. Sure, there's the looming threat of sea-level rise due to climate change (sorry, Rick Scott, it's a fact), but that's just one piece of the key lime pie. South Florida has more than a few environmental, political, and financial woes. 

And, unfortunately, our collective quandaries have created very real consequences. Some of Miami's most magnificent spots — from historic landmarks to rare ecosystems — are facing threats to their existence. 

To get you up to speed on what the city could lose, New Times spoke with historical and environmental preservation experts to find out which places around town are most at-risk — and why they're worth saving. Better hurry up if you wanna see them before they disappear. (Better yet, keep reading for some ideas on how to help save them.) 

The DuPuis Medical Office and Drug Store
The DuPuis Medical Office and Drug Store
Courtesy of Dade Heritage Trust

10. Dr. DuPuis Medical Office and Drug Store
In Lemon City — now officially designated as Little Haiti — history abounds. One landmark of note is the office of Dr. John DuPuis, a pioneer physician who set up shop in Miami in the early 1900s. He founded White Belt Dairy and the Dade County Agricultural School, and his office is a prime example of early Miami architecture. Dr. DuPuis used the office until he died in 1955.

In recent years, however, it's been abandoned, and it's not holding up well.

"It has a great arcade, and it’s falling down," says Christine Rupp, executive director of the Dade Heritage Trust. An area developer is interested in restoring the building, she says. "But if something’s not done soon, it probably will fall down." 

9. North Beach
Though South Beach gets most of the attention, North Beach has many charms of its own, including some remarkable architecture. In particular, it's big on a style known as Miami modern, prominent during the post-World War II period. The North Beach Bandshell is a prime example.

"Miami modern is a style similar to art deco," explains Daniel Ciraldo, the historic preservation officer at the Miami Design Preservation League. "It has really not been identified until recently as its own style." Two areas of North Beach are designated by the federal government as historic, but that's only honorary, Ciraldo says, so there are no local protections against demolition. Local advocates are working to expand the designations so the area can balance development with preservation.

"We think it has so much potential in terms of revitalizing neighborhoods. [Miami modern buildings] are really funky and unique and add a lot of character."

If you want to see Miami modern style stay the course, you can support PlanNoBe, a master plan designed to revitalize the area and preserve its architectural integrity. 

The Coconut Grove Playhouse
The Coconut Grove Playhouse
Courtesy of Dade Heritage Trust

8. Coconut Grove Playhouse
Yet another landmark that's long been sitting unoccupied, the Coconut Grove Playhouse was once the cultural center of the bayfront neighborhood. Designed by architects Kiehnel and Elliott in 1926 as a "fanciful Spanish rococo movie palace," (in the words of the City of Miami's preservation officer), it was later remodeled by architect Alfred Browning Parker and became the city's first live theater, the stage for stories by Tennessee Williams and Samuel Beckett.

"Kiehnel and Elliott were both master architects of the time; they’re kind of like our own Frank Lloyd Wright," Ciraldo says. In 2005, the spot was designated a historic landmark by the city, and money has been set aside for renovation. Then, in 2015, architecture firm Arquitectonica won the bid to lead the redesign effort.

But despite the interest of plenty of stakeholders and ongoing efforts to get going on the work, the playhouse is facing the same threat as Miami Marine Stadium — disuse. As Rupp says: "The longer something sits, the more it deteriorates."

Little Havana, Riverside
Little Havana, Riverside
Courtesy of Dade Heritage Trust

7. Little Havana
This famous neighborhood is more than just a destination for tourists looking to play dominoes and smoke some Cubans. It's one of the city's most diverse — and affordable — neighborhoods. And it's at risk because of upzoning and encroaching development, Ciraldo says. The National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2015 listed the area on "America's Most Endangered Historic Places.

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"Developers in Brickell have run out of land, so they want to start going west," he explains. Upzoning refers to changing the zoning in a neighborhood to allow for taller buildings and greater development density.

"It's like our own version of Ellis Island. It’s the melting pot of our city, and we are a city of immigrants, so it's important that we protect the legacy of Little Havana."

Last year, the city created a small historic district in East Little Havana, but the rest of the area is still at-risk. "We want to keep that unique part of our downtown and not erase it with a bunch of skyscrapers. That's our hope with Little Havana."

Miami-Dade County Courthouse
Miami-Dade County Courthouse
Courtesy of Dade Heritage Trust

6. Miami-Dade County Courthouse
We're all familiar with downtown's center of justice, the Miami-Dade County Courthouse. But who knew it was endangered? The historic building has fallen into disrepair, Ciraldo says, and there's some debate over whether it's worth preserving. There's a push for a new building but no consensus on what would happen to the old one.

"When it was built, it was the tallest building in Florida — 28 floors," he says. "It’s a great icon of downtown Miami and an architectural gem. From the preservation side, we would love for the county to find a way to restore it and maintain it.

"It’s been a part of the legal memory of our county — that's where so much history has happened — and now it’s a matter of whether or not the county will take on the responsibility of historic preservation."



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