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Old June 12th, 2005, 05:58 AM   #1
Toucano
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Conflict over Freedom Tower

DEVELOPMENT


Conflict over Freedom Tower

By ANDRES VIGLUCCI

aviglucci@herald.com


When developer Pedro Martin purchased the Freedom Tower, Miami's most venerated landmark, he promised to handle the building with the utmost respect.

Now, as his $500 million condo tower appears headed for approval by the city, Martin says he is fulfilling his pledge.

His proposal: to shear off part of the Freedom Tower's rear, attach a glass cube to it, and wrap the slender Mediterranean shaft of the 14-story tower with 62 floors of undulating, zigzagging condo balconies spanning two city blocks.

On Wedneday, the city's Planning Advisory Board will address whether grafting a towering highrise onto the Freedom Tower is the proper way to treat a city landmark.

Martin says his plan is a happy marriage of old and new: The condo represents a fluttering flag enveloping the long-vacant 1925 tower, scheduled to be turned into a museum chronicling the history of the building and the exile experience.

''We're going to spend millions to really make the tower an icon for Miami and open it up for the public,'' Martin said.

But to say that Martin's proposal is causing a stir would be an understatement.

To horrified preservationists and some Cuban-American leaders, Martin's condo is a building so massive that it would overshadow the Freedom Tower and effectively erase it from the city's skyline.

The condo is so large and its design so busy, they say, that it would not only block vistas of the tower from the west and northwest, but swallow it up even when viewed from the front, leaving the historic building looking like a hood ornament on an old Buick.

''This is an insanity,'' said author and architect Anthony Tung, a former New York City landmarks commissioner and a recognized authority on the preservation of historic buildings, after viewing renderings of Martin's plan and the Freedom Tower site during a recent visit to Miami.

``This addition has to be a building of the highest design quality. If you put a big ugly building behind it, it's making a laughingstock of the landmark.

``The Freedom Tower is a symbol of democracy, of what's good about Miami. What does this say to the world?''

Dade Heritage Trust, Miami-Dade County's largest preservation group, is organizing a task force led by Cuban-American lawyer and activist Rafael Peñalver to lobby for changes that would make the project more compatible with the old tower -- a symbol of Miami's history from the 1920s land boom to the 1960s Cuban freedom flights, when it served as an assistance center for tens of thousands of newly arrived exiles.

''We are not antidevelopment, but it's a sacred building, and we should do everything we can to preserve its importance,'' said Peñalver, who directed the renovation of the landmark San Carlos Institute in Key West.

Architect Raul Rodriguez, who designed a lauded renovation for the tower's previous owner, the family of late exile leader Jorge Mas Canosa, said the demolition and the obstruction of tower views could and should be avoided.

''The whole thrust behind historic preservation is to not erase our history,'' he said. ``You are immersed in the era when you visit the space. You can do an addition without obliterating the tower. But it's always about the money.''

Miami planning director Ana Gelabert-Sánchez has endorsed the design, with one major caveat: The glass cube, meant to enclose the proposed museum, is ''inappropriate'' and should go, she wrote in recommendations to the planning board. The overall plan was also recommended for approval by the city's design review board.

Gelabert-Sánchez did not respond to an interview request, but said in an e-mailed response to questions that she tried to ``strike a balance between preservation and property rights.''

The city has never turned down a permit for a large-scale development like this one, although it often requires design changes, she said.

In this case, planners required the new tower to be set back, both to separate it from the Freedom Tower and to ensure that the historic building would remain prominently visible up and down Biscayne Boulevard, Gelabert-Sánchez said.

But there were dissenting views within the planning department.

SUGGESTED CHANGES

In a February report, a department committee that reviews large projects recommended making significant changes to the curving condo design, which members said works against the square tower. The committee suggested ''stepping down'' the condo to reduce its mass and height behind the Freedom Tower.

Those recommendations were excised from a March version of the report. Gelabert-Sánchez said they would have had the opposite of the desired effect, producing a large, chunky structure on Biscayne Boulevard just north of the Freedom Tower, reducing its prominence.

One member of the City Commission, which would ultimately approve or reject the project, said he would vote against it.

''I am not going to support anything that dwarfs the tower or that uses the tower as an excuse to build a huge complex of condos and other things,'' Commissioner Tomás Regalado said. ``To obliterate the Freedom Tower is a sacrilege.''

Commissioner Johnny Winton, whose district includes downtown Miami, said he has not seen project plans or renderings and hasn't formed an opinion, but added: ``The new building should really complement and celebrate the Freedom Tower. If the Freedom Tower is lost in the design of the new building, then in my view that's going to be a problem.''

The project's proponents, however, say Martin's plan will save the tower from an uncertain future. Because of severe functional limitations, it has been vacant for years despite two major renovations.

AN 80-YEAR HISTORY

Built as the grand home of what was then Miami's oldest and dominant newspaper, The Miami Daily News, the tower was modeled after Seville's Giralda Tower by Schultze and Weaver, the architects who designed the Biltmore hotels in Coral Gables and Havana.

But the building never worked well as a newspaper office -- the tower, whose interior is cramped, was there mostly for show -- and except for its years as an exile assistance center, it has found no viable use since the newspaper moved out decades ago.

''The preservationists can chain themselves to the building, but something has to be done to make it usable,'' said Howard Kleinberg, a Miami historian and the last editor of the defunct News, who worked in the building as a young writer.

A fateful decision occurred in 1979, when the city declared the building historic. Its owners at the time planned a hotel tower behind the Freedom Tower, and persuaded the city to grant legal protection to the tower and base only. That has left the gable-roofed rear -- containing the former press room, one-time studios for WIOD radio, and the building's grandest room, which is punctuated by columns supporting a vaulted ceiling -- vulnerable to demolition today.

Before Martin's Terra Group bought it in February, the tower belonged to the Mas family, which paid $4 million and planned to convert it into a museum and offices for the Cuban American National Foundation. The family sank $14 million into renovations, but the plans stalled.

Martin paid $38 million for the tower and an adjoining parcel owned by Cuban-American businessman Paul Cejas.

Terra also purchased air rights over the adjacent Florida East Coast railroad tracks, a land assemblage that under generous city zoning rules permits a massive building -- although the 685 units he proposes are far fewer than the allowable 1,478.

Martin and his son and business partner, David Martin, say they are surprised by critics' objections, calling those a ``minority position.''

The Martins say they have gone to great lengths to plan the integration of the Freedom Tower into their condo plan, hiring respected local preservationist Ellen Uguccioni, former preservation director for Coral Gables, as well as the noted planning firm EDAW.

Their condo tower, one of six planned for the west side of Biscayne Boulevard downtown, is no taller or larger than its prospective neighbors, say the Martins -- who separately have bought a 10-acre plot from The Herald's parent company, Knight Ridder, for $190 million.

Terra's architect, Luis Revuelta, said he designed the condo to function as a backdrop to the historic tower, ``soft, simple and noncompeting with the 1920s building.''

Demolishing the rear portion is necessary to accommodate the condo driveway and a small courtyard that would serve as a rear entrance to the tower -- but they would retain the grand vaulted room as part of the museum, they said.

''Our intent and vision was to preserve the historical integrity of this building,'' David Martin said. ``We are really going to be giving back a lot.''
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Old June 12th, 2005, 06:00 AM   #2
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Old June 12th, 2005, 07:29 AM   #3
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The preservationists will not be happy with any building there. What he should have done was drawn up a massive, ugly 1400 foot building with the full 1478 units allowed, and then submitted this design as a compromise.
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Old June 12th, 2005, 07:30 AM   #4
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holy shit that design sux... add another one to the list for revuelta...
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Old June 12th, 2005, 05:18 PM   #5
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"Commissioner Johnny Winton, whose district includes downtown Miami, said he has not seen project plans or renderings and hasn't formed an opinion, but added: ``The new building should really complement and celebrate the Freedom Tower. If the Freedom Tower is lost in the design of the new building, then in my view that's going to be a problem.''


--------------------------------------
this is exactly what i said a couple of weeks ago when i saw the rendering for this crappy as tower ...its just a sorry excuse to build a tower....in no way shape or form does this try and compliment the freedom tower........it'll be a disgrace if this ugly thing is built............i know i've said in the past that i hate the freedom tower but the freedom tower and the courthouse are the last 2 precious landmark we have and we can't let it go to waste but proposing some ugly as hell revuelta designed garbage.
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Old June 12th, 2005, 05:21 PM   #6
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900 biscayne........doesn't it look familiar to 600biscayne........come on who designs buildings that look exactly the same and will be located only a few blocks from each other

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Old June 12th, 2005, 05:23 PM   #7
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revulta... thats who...
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Old June 12th, 2005, 07:13 PM   #8
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it's too massive and I also dislike the idea of altering any portion of the Freedom Tower. They certainly can come up with a better design than this.
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Old June 12th, 2005, 07:27 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobdreamz
it's too massive and I also dislike the idea of altering any portion of the Freedom Tower. They certainly can come up with a better design than this.
Bobdreams , my wife agrees with you, but I say, just BUILD IT !!!, I don't care what great design, just get it built and now , soon, I want to see all 6 different towers and all 6 different developers build all of them by 2010, what a Wall of Condos south of the I-395 picture that would be Great !!!
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Old June 12th, 2005, 09:10 PM   #10
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looks alot like 900, the same squiggly crap on the top.
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Old June 12th, 2005, 09:39 PM   #11
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Looks better than One Miami at least.
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Old June 12th, 2005, 09:53 PM   #12
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well so far the Herald web vote is as follows:

Should the developer be allowed to build a condo around the Freedom Tower?

Of course not! This is a state landmark!
111 votes (44%)
Sure, why not? Progress is progress
136 votes (54%)
I don't know
7 votes (3%)

ugh...I bet these people who voted yes wouldn't mind if they just demolished it.
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Old June 12th, 2005, 10:43 PM   #13
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Im trying to figure out how that building complements Freedom Tower? Hell, when I first looked at the picture I didnt even see Freedom Tower. If they really want to compliment it a glass tower that reflects the building would be better than that. Even better is if they could build the new building in the same style and then have it look like an extension of the Freedom Tower.
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Old June 12th, 2005, 11:48 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobdreamz

Should the developer be allowed to build a condo around the Freedom Tower?
Sure, why not? Progress is progress
136 votes (54%)
Everyone , Bobdreamz , YES, why not, Pedro Martin owns the Landmark and will continue to restore the 1925 Landmark, the part which he is taking down is the old back garage area of the building. I see that open part everyday I drive down N.E. 2nd ave and see the garage door open and some junk inside the empty place. its vacant and deteriating everyday. Its his property and he bought the property next to it, where the 900 Biscayne Tower Sales center now stands, and the old F.E.C. tracks in between both properties that no trains use anymore and have been dissconnected from trains years ago.

I know Manny Diaz , the Mayor of Miami will vote for this tower and it will get approved with deals of protecting the Freedom Tower no matter what the Herald critics have to say about the Tower that the Miami Herald and the Miami News started in back in 1925.
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Old June 13th, 2005, 12:50 AM   #15
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Anyone who thinks they should build this monolithic, monstrosity of a building is out of there mind. This building is only out there to make money it in no way fact or shape is going to help the city. This building is nothing but a replica of 900 Biscayne it doesn’t show any compliment to the great architecture and great amount of details that were poured into the freedom tower its just another worthless piece of crap condo tower of which we’ve seen many. I don’t get how this development is going to cost 500million because it looks cheap and insignificant. I bet the most expensive thing is going to be the installation of this stupid glass case to put the freedom tower in(which is going to make it look stupid its going to look as if the freedom TOWER is a trophy or something.) . its an attempt to try and do what IM pei did with the louvre when he put the glass pyramids but this time it won’t work.

In my opinion if the city allows this development it will be the worst ever decision made as it will degrade an icon to the Miami skyline. so what they should do is to make Pedro martin redesign the whole building separate the building from the freedom tower and make something less offensive and less provocative more complimentary and more architecturally pleasing . IF Pedro martin doesn’t comply then the city should use eminent domain or whatever it was that they used on the Miami circle and take the land away.

I forgot who said this but it was a great quote ,developers are just interested in making a quick buck but aren’t interested in making beautifully designed and iconic structures
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Old June 13th, 2005, 12:51 AM   #16
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WE SHOULD BE CREATING NEW LANDMARKS NOT DEGRADING OLD ONES,WE SHOULD BE GETTING RID OF OLD EYESORES NOT CREATING NEW ONES.

HEY NIMBYHATER WHATEVER HAPPEN TO YOUR PLAN TO STAND INFRONT OF THE FREEDOM TOWER IF THEY WOULD EVER TRY TO KNOCK IT DOWN.
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Old June 13th, 2005, 01:30 AM   #17
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You two get the hell out of the way and crank up dem bulldozers !
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Old June 13th, 2005, 04:12 AM   #18
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love the freedom tower but not a big fan of the new tower, but a new development should go up.........curious note: freedom tower is a replica of a tower in spain not an original
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Old June 13th, 2005, 04:54 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Mad Hatter!!
HEY NIMBYHATER WHATEVER HAPPEN TO YOUR PLAN TO STAND INFRONT OF THE FREEDOM TOWER IF THEY WOULD EVER TRY TO KNOCK IT DOWN.

lets u and me go hatter... well stand side by side defending the little history our city has...
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Old June 13th, 2005, 05:22 AM   #20
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*Meanwhile, as Hatter and Nimby position themselves in front of Freedom Tower, Dale and Chuck quietly get the Home Depot underway in Coconut Grove*
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