A fundraising campaign kicked off this week, led by David Martin and his family, to restore the historic Coral Rock House in North Beach, one of Miami-Dade County’s last remaining coral rock homes. The house is not only an iconic and historic architectural structure, “it has become an icon and a symbol of the Miami Beach Hispanic Community,” said Victor Diaz, Jr. Diaz is the Co-Founder and President of the Miami Beach Hispanic Community Center which has been located in the Coral Rock House for nearly 25 years.
The house, designed by architect George Pfeiffer and built in 1934, was originally located on Collins Avenue. It was saved from demolition by community members who walked behind the structure as it was moved to its current location on Normandy Isle in 1995, according to Diaz. After an extensive renovation, the Community Center moved in two years later. “It’s a great symbol of the community coming together,” he said. Now, Diaz is hoping the community comes together once again to provide much needed repairs that forced the Center to close a few years ago.
This week Miami Beach resident and developer David Martin and his family said they will donate $50,000 to spearhead the restoration. Diaz said he thought it fitting that the announcement took place during Hispanic Heritage Month and at the site where so many celebrations have traditionally taken place in the past. With COVID restrictions, there are no in-person commemorations taking place in the City this year, so the small announcement also provided an opportunity to mark the month.
Diaz said he expects the amount of money that needs to be raised to be about $150,000 to $200,000 but, first, an architectural and structural assessment needs to be done to create the bid documents for the repair work. Martin’s donation helps get that piece going as well as make a down payment to begin the repairs.
The 86-year-old structure has seen heavy traffic since it was first renovated 25 years ago, Diaz said. “We’ve operated a lot of programs out of that facility. Literally thousands of people would go in and out of that house on a daily basis.”
The Community Center offered a wide variety of social services, including bilingual youth and adult programming. The Center’s owner and operator, UNIDAD of Miami Beach, Inc., also operates the senior center in North Beach. Since the start of the pandemic, Unidad has served over 22,000 home delivered meals to shut-in seniors.
The Community Center focuses on offering services to the Hispanic community, “celebrating Hispanic culture and Hispanic history in the City of Miami Beach” while the senior center “offers services to seniors from all walks of life and all Miami Beach residents,” Diaz said. Since the closure of the Community Center, some its programs that target seniors have been operating out of the senior center. The cultural programming, “the kind of thing we used to do bringing the community together and doing outreach to the Hispanic community in Spanish, that has been on hold while we look for a means to renovate the Hispanic Community Center,” he said.
In addition to Martin’s contribution, Diaz and others have also made donations to kickstart the fundraising campaign, an important component of achieving the overall goal. “Once you have private funds, you then can apply for public dollars,” he noted. Because the Coral Rock House is a historic landmark, it qualifies for State historic preservation grants and community development block grants.
“The reason we wanted to do this event, was to start a very public fundraising campaign,” Diaz said. “We are looking for donations large and small from the community. Any amount counts and any amount makes a difference.”
“We also think it is wonderful that someone who is doing business in the City of Miami Beach and doing well like David Martin is willing to give back to the community and reinvest in the same city that has given him so much.”
“I’ve always been passionate about historic preservation, celebrating diversity and inclusiveness in our city, providing social services to the most needy, making sure that the American dream and the opportunities this country afforded me as an immigrant to this country are afforded to others,” Diaz said. With his contribution, Martin honored the sacrifice of his parents and grandparents, also immigrants, Diaz added.
Martin, CEO of Terra Group, is behind the Eighty Seven Park Development in North Beach and the GLASS condominium in the South of Fifth neighborhood. His projects under development include the Miami Beach Convention Center Grand Hyatt Hotel and the Canopy Club and park at 500 Alton Road. Martin has also proposed a redevelopment and upgrade of the Miami Beach Marina, the subject of three ballot questions to be voted on as part of this year’s election.
The contribution “marks a continuation of the Martin Family’s long history of supporting historic preservation initiatives and helping to secure the future of important landmarks to the South Florida Hispanic community, including donating Miami’s storied Freedom Tower to Miami Dade College in 2005,” according to an announcement of the event.
“When it comes to preserving South Florida’s architectural past, Miami Beach is among the most respectful and forward-looking communities in our region,” Martin said. “The Coral Rock House is a landmark and critical resource for our City’s Hispanic community. Our donation and the funds we raise through this campaign will secure the Miami Beach Hispanic Community Center’s future and ensure this historic building can continue serving our neighbors for decades to come.”
There is no fundraising website yet, but Diaz said tax deductible contributions can be made to Unidad of Miami Beach, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization, and mailed to 7251 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33141. Email Diaz with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or call his office at 305-704-3200.
Photo from left to right: former Miami Beach Mayor and Miami Beach Hispanic Community Center Co-Founder Matti Bower, Christina Martin, Community Center Co-Founder Victor Diaz Jr., David Martin, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber
Credit: Zoltan Photography
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