Historic Preservation for the Miami Herald? It's a Politically Perfect Anti-Casino Strategy
Around the State
The Biscayne Bayfront Miami Herald building could go down in history as Florida's most lavishly-funded historic preservation project. And some would argue -- myself among them -- its most unworthy and possibly its most shameful.
You can love and appreciate, as I do, a rich tradition, a powerful vehicle for community good, and a 109-year-old institution like The Miami Herald, during much of its life the heart and soul of the city it serves.
But you can also understand that the newspaper isn't its building.
You can understand that it doesn't make sense to enshrine what, quite frankly, is an architecturally unremarkable building (apologies to architect Sigurd Naess) that has only been around for 49 of those 109 years, a building that blocks the view of the bay and sits on a prize 13.9-acre property to which the majority of Miamians are denied access.
Nevertheless, the preservationists from Dade Heritage Trust applied this week to the city of Miami to declare the building an historic landmark.
If they are successful, it will amount to a taking. Thievery, but legal thievery.
Preservation isn't even what the people of Miami want.
Early this year, a survey of Miami-Dade voters commissioned by The Herald and its media partners like the Tampa Bay Times showed that 52 percent of those polled opposed historic designation for the building. Another 13 percent had no opinion.
What a way to discourage a casino resort on that site. It's brilliant, really.
Preservation would bar any significant alteration to the building's exterior. That means the Malaysia-based Genting Group, which bought the property last year from The Herald's parent company for $236 million, could not demolish it as planned, could not carry out even its scaled-down plans. Certainly any hope it still entertains to build a resort casino on the site would present a significant challenge.
Christian Goode, president of Resorts World Miami, Genting's developer of the property, issued a terse written statement: "Any impacts derived from preserving the Herald building are far outweighed by the benefits that a new master-planned development will bring to the Omni neighborhood."
Meanwhile, pro-casino forces -- from building contractors looking to hire workers again to business people after a boost to the local economy -- call the preservation effort part of "a shady world in which huge legal and lobbying fees and big campaign donations buy access and influence."
Miami-Dade tea party activist Don Miguel Sanchez told Sunshine State News on Thursday, "We have filed a complaint describing the connection between Dade Heritage Trust and No Casinos -- Disney just gave them $1 million to keep casinos out next session. Dade Heritage wanted a big donation to back off this preservation move, but Genting wouldn't fall for it."
Becky Roper Matkov, chief executive officer of the Dade Heritage Trust, was unavailable Thursday afternoon.
What makes me laugh here is that so many people are mad at the Herald property's new owners. How dare they. Fabiola Santiago of The Herald writes that Matkov has complained to her that some of the building's original plans are "missing" or hard to come by and that Genting is against the historic designation and "is not cooperating with the sharing of deed documents ..."
Writes Santiago, "But predictable shenanigans like that shouldn't be a factor (in meeting criteria for historic designation)."
Herald folks can whine all they like. But ultimately, it's McClatchy, The Herald owners, who failed to save their building. And in a year when casino interests splashed millions of dollars around Tallahassee to bring gambling in or keep gambling out -- the real high rollers, the party that made the most money from gambling interests, was The (Doral-bound) Miami Herald.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.