THESIS: An Evolution of Preservation Policies in Miami Beach, 1970s to Present Entry by Laura Weinstein-Berman

This past semester I began to embark on a journey of my first thesis. Searching for a topic that you are passionate about, yet challenged by, can be a task in itself. Having resided in Miami Beach since my undergraduate completion, I have become increasingly aware of how municipal historic preservation policies shape the built environment. Consequently, many of these policies come from a historical and cultural acceptance of what particular communities value. These thoughts led me to research further a “history of policy decisions,” particularly so critical now with conversations of sea level rise and further expected effects of climate change. My thesis is tentatively titled, “Are we all in the same boat? An evolution of preservation policies in Miami Beach, 1970s to present.”

Source: Miami Herald

In Miami Beach, the success of South Beach as a premier tourist destination from formerly dilapidated mid-20th century buildings has now turned its attention to larger issues of resiliency policies and combating sea level rise. Miami Beach has already undertaken a $400M resiliency plan, hired the City’s first Chief Resiliency Officer, and made “Historic Preservation” a principle of these initiatives… But, what does this mean to the resiliency of Miami Beach’s famed historic resources?

I’m interested in this fundamental shift of policy from a historical perspective: from the economic development policies and tourism incentives of the 1970s to the present government implementations of “Historic Preservation” in resiliency policymaking at the municipal level. By doing historical analysis of the development of preservation policies, I will be able to understand the thinking and integration of these policies into ordinances, incentives, and regulations. Using empirical and architectural evidence of these outcomes, I will evaluate the historical process of decision-making, successes/failures of implementations, and the effects of these policies (intentional or not), which can be applied to the current navigation of preservation policies within a resiliency framework.

Source: Vanity Fair

Overall, I believe that preservation initiatives will begin to inform and be integrated within these resiliency policies nationwide, specifically in coastal regions. As more research data, incentives, and solutions become available, this will be especially important as city’s imagine what their future will look like and how they will represent their image to a competitive tourism market. If preservation policies don’t actively seek to further link with shared goals, loss of heritage resources across many of America’s oldest towns will be inevitable. In a future where the federal government advocates three solutions for flood hazard mitigation: elevation, relocation, or demolition, preservation will need to reassess it’s societal and communal values.

This research is an ongoing task, but I have narrowed it to a few critical questions below. I would love dialogue of thoughts on these topics and the future of cultural resources and climate change. Just yesterday, January 6, 2017, the National Park Service launched Cultural Resources and Climate Change Strategyhttps://www.nps.gov/subjects/climatechange/culturalresourcesstrategy.htm. It is an ongoing conversation and I’m glad to see preservationists at the forefront of these inevitabilities. More long nights of research and writing to come!

QUESTIONS TO BE RESEARCHED AND ANALYZED:

  • How have the realms of political, economic, and preservation-oriented advocacy shifted over the past 40 years in Miami Beach?
  • Today, there is a sea level rise crisis- what will be the solution and what can we learn from the successes and failures of the municipal collaboration that occurred in Miami Beach in the 1970s? What are the parallels?
  • How can Miami Beach integrate past “successful” preservation policies into a holistic view of resiliency plans currently being put forward by the City?
  • What can we learn from historical precedents and how can lessons learned in Miami Beach be applied to other coastal locales?

SOURCES:

  • Baer Capitman, Barbara. Deco Delights: Preserving the Beauty and Joy of Miami Beach Architecture. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1988.
  • City of Miami Beach, Public Works Department. “Miami Beach: Sustainability Plan, Energy Economic Zone Work Plan.” City of Miami Beach, July 20, 2016.
  • Drolet, Jedediah, and David Listokin, Ph.D. “South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida Case Study: Synthesis of Historic Preservation and Economic Development.” Economic Impacts of Historic Preservation Update 2010. Center for Urban Policy Research: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2010.
  • Hovanic, Charles. “Stronger than the Storm? Promoting the Post-Sandy Resilience of Historic Resources in New Jersey’s Coastal Communities.” Columbia University, 2016.
  • Isacoff, Rachel B. “Raised or Razed: The Challenge of Climate Adaptation and Social Equity in Historic Coastal Communities.” University of Pennsylvania, 2014.
  • Klepser, Carolyn. Lost Miami Beach. Charleston: The History Press, 2014.
  • McLendon, Timothy, Kristin Larsen, Ph.D., AICP, JoAnn Klein, Rhonda Phillips, Ph.D., AICP, Glenn Williamson, Ph.D., Lori Pennington-Gray, Ph.D., and John Confer, Ph.D. Contributions of Historic Preservation to the Quality of Life In Florida: Executive Summary. Gainesville: University of Florida, November 2006.
  • Schuster, J. Mark, John de Monchaux, and Charles A. Riley II. Preserving the Built Heritage: Tools for Implementation. Salzburg Seminar. Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 1997.
  • Stofik, M. Barron. Saving South Beach. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2005.