Old Normandy Plaza Hotel on Brink of Demolition

North Shore

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Old Normandy Plaza Hotel on Brink of Demolition:

Property boarded up since 2013 deemed an unsafe structure

The Old Normandy Hotel at 6979 Collins Avenue is teetering on the brink of demolition after its owners failed to comply with orders to repair it as part of a required 40-year recertification. Boarded up since 2013, City of Miami Beach staff have not been able to determine the building’s condition despite a Miami-Dade County Unsafe Structures Board order mandating access. As a result of non-compliance with the County order issued in June of last year which also required the owners to make repairs certified by a structural engineer or architect, the City is preparing for an emergency demolition order. City Commissioners this week will consider a bid waiver for a demolition contract in a not to exceed amount of $476,685 with Alpha Wrecking Group to demolish the building, if necessary.
City Manager Jimmy Morales wrote in a Letter to Commission that the property’s owners – Vilarino Property Group – were given a first notice of required recertification on October 30, 2006. They sought and received multiple extensions for the repairs between 2007 and 2013. Under County Code, buildings that are for 40 years or more old are required to have inspections to determine their structural condition and the condition of electrical systems.
“Notwithstanding these extensions, no action was taken by the property owner to comply with the 40-year recertification requirements, and the building has been abandoned and boarded up since 2013,” Morales wrote. 
The building was referred to the Miami-Dade County Unsafe Structures Board in June, 2018 after which the property owners were given a timeline for submitting a 40-year recertification report and obtaining and completing repairs. The deadline was December of 2018.
“The board also ruled that the property owner shall allow staff of the City of Miami Beach access to the property for the purpose of performing compliance inspections while the case remains active,” Morales said. “To date, none of these requirements have been met.”
This past week, however, representatives for the owners reached out to delay the demolition. “[O]ur Building Official, Ana Salgueiro, was contacted by an architect and structural engineer that were hired by the owners of the property to prepare drawings for [a] permit that would take care of the deficiencies in the project,” Morales wrote. “On behalf of the owner, they requested that the demolition order be stopped and allow them to make all the necessary repairs to remove all violations and put the building back in operations. A meeting with stakeholders is being coordinated.”
The principals in Vilarino Property Group are listed as Antonio Vilarino, Nilda Vilarino, Miriam Vilarino, and Vilma Vilarino. The family also owns Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine, a restaurant group with 12 locations, including one in Miami Beach across the street from the Normandy Hotel property.
The Normandy Hotel is classified as a contributing building within the North Beach Resort Local Historic District. The three-story building was designed by L. Murrary Dixon and constructed in 1936. As a result, it is under the jurisdiction of the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board (HPB). At its meeting this month, the HPB urged the City to hold off on demolishing the building until after its September meeting, if possible, so they could get further information about the building’s condition and the potential for saving it. 
City Design and Preservation Manager Debbie Tackett reminded the HPB that “Any new development on the property would require coming to this board.”
“They’re probably going to try to sell the property, I mean, let’s be honest,” she said. The Board, she noted, could place restrictions on what could be built in place of a building that is demolished. For example, the Board “can require complete reconstruction of the historic building without any additions” or allow a “new contemporary building but it cannot exceed, the height or the footprint or the FAR of the existing building.” (FAR is Floor Area Ratio or density of a building.)
“There’s a lot of FAR left on the table that could be lost” if the Board restricts what can be built there. “People looking to purchase the property, there’s probably been at least 20 over the last 7 or 8 years, have been advised of that,” Tackett said.
In addition to requesting a delay in the demolition, the HPB also asked for a salvage plan for “the retention of any significant architectural features on the exterior of the building or within the lobby” in the event of a demolition, according to Morales’ letter. In the meantime, he said, HPB member Rick Lopez, a faculty member with the University of Miami School of Architecture, “offered to perform a three-dimensional laser scan of the existing building in conjunction with the University of Miami Department of Computational Science in order to accurately document the building prior to any possible demolition.” He noted the Administration is working on securing permits for the equipment which would be located in the right-of-way.
With the latest developments, Morales told Commissioners, the demolition contract they are voting on “will only be utilized to follow through on the Unsafe Structures Board order if needed, if in fact [the] owners do not follow throurgh with their interests expressed on July 23.”
Photo and old postcard image courtesy Rick Kendle
Current state of the Normandy Plaza Hotel at 6979 Collins Avenue

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