Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Our City: A Historical Masterpiece

It’s no secret that Miami is a city of rich historical significance. We’re famously known for our art centers, architecture, culture, and two National Historic Landmarks - the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and, more recently, the Freedom Tower. I was proud to welcome U.S. Deputy Secretary of Interior Lynn Scarlett today at City Hall for a reception in recognition of Miami’s historic preservation efforts and its designation as a Preserve America Community last year.

The Preserve America Community program was started by the George W. Bush Administration under the vision of First Lady Laura Bush. The program aims to strengthen local pride and increase participation in preserving the country’s unique cultural and historical assets. With this designation, our City is eligible to receive Preserve America grants from the federal government which are very important to support planning and development of heritage tourism programs and activities.

I’m thrilled about our City’s unique historical background. The City of Miami’s application to become a Preserve America Community focused on the Miami Modern (MiMo) architectural style and the Biscayne Boulevard Historic District. Officially designated on June 6, 2006, the district between NE 50th and NE 77th Streets includes 65 historic structures, many of which date from the 1940s to the 1960s period.

It was fitting that we should have held such a reception in Miami City Hall, originally the Old Pan American seaplane base and terminal building. Built in the middle of the Great Depression, the terminal linked the U.S. and Latin America. The building was completely restored and is now a beautiful reminder of Miami’s history.

Now, there are now almost 100 designated historic sites within Miami. These designated properties include private homes, schools, fire stations, churches, municipal buildings, bridges, a cemetery, and many streets. These sites bear testimony to the unique background of the City I am proud to call home.

My administration will continue its efforts to preserve Miami’s history. I recognize that we must preserve and protect this history for the benefit of our children, our grandchildren, and their children thereafter.

Some of the initiatives we are currently involved in include:

· Assisted in drafting Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD) Language in concert with Miami 21, so as to protect the character of neighborhoods which might not otherwise qualify for historic district designation.
· Hired a consulting archaeologist on an as needed basis to protect irreplaceable historic artifacts, and assist property owners in achieving compliance with the city’s survey requirements.
· Continue our work with the Historic and Environmental Preservation Board who review alterations to historic properties; and facilitate communications with property owners regarding those changes.
· Assist in drafting a revised Chapter in the City Code that will integrate our tree protection ordinance and our protective provisions for environmental preservation districts—to better safeguard Miami’s signature landscape elements.
· Continue the production of a Historic Preservation Newsletter that targets owners of historic properties and inform them of news which affects them on a timely basis.
· Continue to participate in the plans for the interpretation of the Miami Circle archaeological site.

- Manny