Bercow Radell Fernandez & Larkin represented Tristar, the owner of multiple retail buildings along Lincoln Road, which is in the midst of a substantial change. Tristar entered into a lease agreement with the Miami Beach Community Church, established in 1921. The church was facing financial ruin and looking at the prospect of closing its doors within a couple of years.
The lease agreement with Tristar has given the church hope for a bright future. The agreement contemplates the construction of a new 2-story retail building in what is now an open courtyard, but has sparked a fierce controversy in the City of Miami Beach preservation community.
We were able to obtain a certificate of appropriateness for demolition and design from the City of Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board (HPB). Shortly after we obtained this approval, some of the objectors appeared before the City Commission, without notice to the Church or Tristar, arguing that the HPB was duped by emotional testimony and that their ability to offer opposition testimony was unfairly limited.
Based upon this one-sided argument, the City Commission adopted a resolution requesting that the City Manager appeal the decision of the HPB to the City Special Master. Following the adoption of the resolution, we lobbied the City Commission and explained the grounds for the HPB’s approval. At the next City Commission meeting, the Commission adopted another resolution rescinding the prior resolution provided that Tristar slightly modify the building to further angle it away from the church. The church, for its part, agreed to dedicate a certain percentage of the funds from the lease agreement with Tristar for the perpetual maintenance and rehabilitation of the historic sanctuary.
After that City Commission action, the Miami Design Preservation League, a watchdog preservation group, filed a motion for rehearing stating that there was new and/or overlooked evidence that the HPB should consider. The issue is not yet settled, however, we continue to explore alternatives with the City Attorney’s office.