commission votes to restore log cabin

North Shore

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

commission votes to restore log cabin:

cabin will be dismantled and stored while funding is sought

Plans to restore the North Beach log cabin are now moving forward after Miami Beach Commissioners voted to fund the first stage: dismantling the deteriorated structure and cataloging the salvageable material for storage. This initial phase is estimated to cost approximately $274,000 pending a formal bid process.
 
While Commissioners disagreed on whether or not City funds should be used for the restoration which is estimated to cost an additional $750,000 to $1 million, they voted unanimously on the intent to restore and committed to work on funding options, a task that will actually fall to the next Commission which will be seated after the November 7th election.
 
The action paves the way for the North Beach Yard, a temporary culinary pop-up modeled on The Wynwood Yard, to be located on the City-owned West Lot between 81st and 82nd Street where the log cabin currently sits. Initially, the cabin was a potential amenity to be included in the plans for the Yard but assessments of its condition indicated it was so badly deteriorated it was unsafe. Over the summer the Commission’s Finance Committee voted to demolish it at a cost of $15,000.
 
Following a social media campaign to save it, Commissioners sought more input as to its historic significance, potential for restoration, and cost estimates. Initial assessments indicated approximately 55% of the cabin is salvageable. Since receiving the cost estimates, Commissioners Joy Malakoff and John Alemán have objected to using taxpayer money to fund its rebuilding.
 
Malakoff said, “I know that there are many in the North Beach community who feel it’s important to keep the log cabin. Personally I cannot support this … log cabins were never part of the vernacular of Miami Beach and I believe that it is in such disrepair to go and spend $1,300,000 to save it, to put it somewhere for use unknown is just a waste of the taxpayers monies.”
 
Alemán said, “The total cost of it is $1 to $1.2 million for a 1,000 s.f. log cabin. For me, I don’t think that makes sense ... No one in their right mind would spend upwards of a million dollars on a 1,000 s.f. log cabin that is not historically significant. It’s not designated. That’s why there’s seven of us so we can all decide if we want to spend the $275 or not” for the first phase.
 
“The amount of money is pretty shocking given the size and the fact that it is a log cabin,” Commissioner Ricky Arriola said, “but I think it is something that is important to the North Beach community and I’m in favor of preserving the log cabin … I want to see if we can come up with our best scenario where it's cost-friendly and we can make it a beautiful structure that can be preserved for the future.”
 
What he doesn’t want to do, he said, is continue to “kick the can down the road” and further delay either the North Beach Yard or a decision on the log cabin. “At a minimum, I ask this Commission to say, okay, let’s move forward with this proposal to start taking down the log cabin, preserve the structure, while we find enough time and money to restore it and where to ultimately move it for the long term.”
 
Mayor Philip Levine proposed a solution. “We say the intent is to move forward with North Beach Yard. Our intent at this point is to preserve the log cabin, that’s the intent. However, we’re going to allocate the money to properly disassemble it and then the next Commission will decide how they’re going to fund restoration, how they’re going to do it, just make that decision but the intent is to restore, okay?”
 
Alemán liked the idea. “That would give us more time to find grants. We haven’t had a lot of time to find grants.”
 
In addition to grant funding, Arriola said, there is the potential of a crowd sourced fundraising campaign or the option to allocate a percentage of resort tax revenue from the North Beach Yard towards the restoration.”

Its final location has yet to be determined and could be tied to the funding. One option is North Shore Open Space Park, which is about to undergo a major renovation and has some money in its budget that might be used to restore the log cabin, if it's moved into the park. Alemán objected to immediately going to that option given the recent storm damage. “Time out,” she said. “We just lost what percentage of the canopy of that park from Hurricane Irma? So now we’re going to take canopy money and we’re going to put it towards this without even trying to go get other people’s money? You can’t get the grants for the trees. You can get the grants for the preservation.”
 
Daniel Ciraldo, Executive Director of the Miami Design Preservation League, said his group has been working with the City on the challenges of restoring the cabin. "We reached out to Doug Wood who is the kind of person that if somebody says a building will fall apart, you hire him and he proves them wrong," Ciraldo said. "In this case, unfortunately, the analysis showed that there is a lot of deficiency with the building. I don’t think we should use the term demolish but I think deconstruct is what we’re looking at." After hearing the brainstorming of ideas for funding, he agreed, "There might be a way to do this so it doesn't put a burden on the City."

City Manager Jimmy Morales said, “We’re very effective at getting grants. We were very effective getting millions of dollars for the beachwalk.” He said the City’s grants director will begin to identify sources of funding and make applications. And, if not, Arriola said, “We could find the money” either by locating the cabin in the park and using allocated funds or earmarking North Beach Yard resort taxes.
 
With that understanding the Commission voted unanimously to fund the first $274,000 to dismantle, catalog, and store the log cabin.
 
Later in the day, State Senator Daphne Campbell came by to give her legislative update. Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez took the opportunity to discuss Campbell’s successful effort at getting State funding to restore a log cabin in Biscayne Park and ask Campbell for help in doing the same for Miami Beach. Noting that after several tries she was eventually able to come up with $1 million for the Biscayne Park log cabin, she said she would help the City find funding.

Photo: Kirk Paskal
 

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