For a half-century the imposing Miami Herald building stood like a sentinel on Biscayne Bay. Massive, bulky, and featuring the tan and canary-yellow color scheme of your grandmother's first apartment, the building wasn't exactly an architectural gem. OK, let's just say it: It was ugly. Like Soviet-military-barracks ugly.
But through the decades, the big block on the bay nevertheless won a place in the hearts of Miamians. Pulitzer Prizes were won there. Absence of Malice was filmed inside. Hurricane Andrew delivered a direct hit and still couldn't knock the old lady down. How could you not love a building like that?
Now, of course, the Herald and its 650 employees have moved to Doral, after the Biscayne property was bought in 2011 by billion-dollar Malaysian casino company Genting. Demolition started suddenly late last month, and the old building lies in ruins. Its southern flank looks like it was ripped open by a car bomb, and a massive pile of steel and rubble has formed at its base. A few lonely construction cranes lurk like architectural vultures.
But so far, the famous sign, at least -- those beautiful light blue neon letters -- has remained intact. Mostly. Before demolition began, the Herald claimed two of the massive block letters, the M and H, from the building's western-facing side and moved them to storage for a possible reincarnation at the daily's new building.
But the newspaper has no plans of reclaiming the rest -- most, especially from the bay-facing side, were badly corroded after years of exposure to saltwater, said Lourdes Alvarez, the Herald's marketing director. "Even the M and the H need a little work," she said.
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So now it's up to Genting, Alvarez said, and a spokesman for the company told Riptide he wasn't aware of any plans to relocate them -- meaning those famous letters, it seems, have been reduced to syllabary orphans. Unclaimed and now invisible, hidden under massive tarps, they have an uncertain future.
It's probably not bright. Once the Herald building is completely gone, the old brown-and-yellow pulverized into dust, will the rubble pile also have a touch of that signature neon blue?