Residents Livid as Developer Demolishes Historic Hotel After Promises to Renovate

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

The list of architects who worked on North Beach's Biltmore Terrace Hotel reads like a dean's list of Miami greats: Albert Anis, Melvin Grossman -- and the biggest name of all, Morris Lapidus, the man behind the Fontainebleau and the Eden Roc. The rectangular beachfront space at 87th Street and Collins Avenue, built in 1951, once advertised itself as "the hotel with the wholesome family atmosphere"; today it still wins over fans as an iconic example of MiMo architecture.

"That's what North Beach is all about," says Kirk Paskal, who lives nearby and founded the North Shore Historic District Neighborhood Association.

But now community members are livid after a developer that promised to restore the building abruptly began demolishing it instead.

"They misled everyone in the community," Paskal says. "We're all sick about it."

The historic hotel, which is now the Howard Johnson Plaza Miami Beach North, was bought in December 2013 by the Terra Group, a Pembroke Pines developer. (Terra did not return a phone call requesting comment from New Times.)

Last year, Terra created a buzz by announcing its intention to restore the building in conjunction with its plan to add a condo tower on the property. The group then presented its designs at various community meetings and won approval from the Design Review Board. It was also granted a zoning change, from 60 feet to 200 feet, so the new condo could be built.

But in late November, the developers' plans changed. Instead of following through with the renovation of the historic building, Terra applied for a demolition permit, which is not subject to review because the building doesn't have historic designation. By last week, the firm had already begun destroying the structure.

The same community members who applauded the renovation idea were shocked, deriding the developer's promises as an underhanded, profit-oriented tactic to secure a zoning change. At a panel last Thursday, Terra presented plans for the new luxury tower, and community members showed up to "impress upon the developer that this bait and switch is not what North Beach deserves."

Paskal says he's not sure if anything can be done at this point to preserve the building, which is already partially razed, but he hopes attention can at least help save other structures in the neighborhood.

If nothing else, he says, North Beach should "have the assurance that at least a portion of our character will be protected."

Below, pictures of the hotel, from then and now, all courtesy of Paskal:

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.