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.
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.
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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?