Preservationists Push To Save Historic Mosaic Threatened By Mid-Beach Faena Project

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Growing up in Miami in the 1960s, Mitch Novick remembers cruising along Collins Avenue and gaping at a gold-and-blue tinted mosaic. "It really is a spectacular mosaic," says Novick.

So when Novick heard that the building housing the artwork had been approved for demolition to make way for the massive mid-Beach Faena project, he jumped to publicize the mosaic's plight. "It's an extremely unique piece for the Beach," says Novick, who is now the chairman of the Miami-Dade Historic Preservation Board.

See also: Listed for $50 Million, Faena House Penthouse Could Become Miami's Most Expensive Condo

The work dates from the 1950s and was created by Jack Stewart, a noted American symbolist and academic enthusiast of graffiti.

It's stylings are far from the norm on the Beach and even on the decaying addition to the Versailles Hotel, it cuts a striking visual along Collins Avenue.

Today, however, it sits square in the middle of the huge, ambitious Faena project, which will eventually gobble up several whole mid-Beach blocks and will include everything from a retail center to a redone Saxony hotel to a $50 million penthouse unit.

Faena is also supposed to include an arts and culture center in the development.

When the group presented its latest plans to the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board last month, Novick suggested relocating the mosaic to that center might be a win-win for the city and the group.

In the end, the board approved the demolition without making any demands of Faena, though they did "strongly encourage preservation/retention of the artwork, either on-­site or perhaps the piece could be donated to a local museum."

Faena's attorney, former Beach Mayor Neisen Kasdin, promised to study the issue.

"We're going to take a look at conserving it," Kasdin tells Riptide. "We're building this project to the highest standards on the Beach in terms of design and quality and an infusion of art."

Novick, who owns the Sherbrooke Hotel in South Beach, is hopeful it might be saved, but not holding his breath. After all, Miami Beach development has a history of plowing through long-time artwork in the name of progress.

"I consider it an iconic piece," Novick says.

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