It's Not Over for Miami House

Posted on: August 29th, 2007 by Margaret Foster

The Avery Smith House (Alesh Houdek, of Miami Beach's oldest houses was partially demolished this summer, prompting more debate over what's left of the single-story coral structure built c. 1915.

On July 9, owner Michael Stern bulldozed a 1939 addition to the Avery Smith House with the city's approval. Stern and co-owner Ivor Rose want to build a four-story building on the site.

"By no means is [the fight] over," says Mitch Novick, owner of a nearby hotel and former chairman of the city's historic preservation board.

The city's historic preservation board on June 12 approved Stern and Rose's plans to raze not only the addition, but a Mediterranean revival building and coral-rock garage on the site. The board said the owners can demolish the Avery Smith House if it is not structurally sound or able to be restored. If Stern and Rose demolish it, Miami Beach preservation laws say they must build a replica.

Avery Smith, an entrepreneur who created the first shuttle-boat service between Miami and Miami Beach, once lived in the now run-down house in the art deco district.

Novick says his goal is to save not just what's left of the Coral Rock House but the other structures on the property, too. "A win would be the removal of the death sentence for the Mediterranean revival building," he says. During Novick's five years on the board, the group ruled that Stern and Rose must preserve the first 15 feet of that building.

In August 2005, Miami-Dade County's Unsafe Structures Board issued a demolition order, declaring the Avery Smith House unsafe. In October, the city's building department granted the owners a demolition permit.

Earlier this month, the board denied Novick's request for another hearing. Novick plans to file an appeal to the city next week. "We imagine that will be denied, and then we'll go to the courts."

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