The historic designation for the Harbour Bay Condominium in Bay Harbor Islands, Florida was upheld on appeal by the Miami-Dade County Commission during its meeting on June 22. Historic designation was granted by a unanimous decision of the Miami-Dade Historic Preservation Board in November of 2016 Harbour Bay Condominium is the first property in Bay Harbor Islands to receive local historic designation that was successfully upheld on appeal.
Constructed in 1947 as the Nelson Villa Apartments, the complex is one of the earliest developments on the East Island of Bay Harbor Islands. Bay Harbor Islands was incorporated in 1947, and the developer sought many prominent local architects to design buildings in the new town. As a result, the East Island contained one of the largest concentrations of Miami Modern (MiMo) style architecture in the country. The MiMo style is the unique interpretation of mid-century modern architecture adapted to the climate of South Florida. Historic resources are under pressure by luxury waterfront condo redevelopment, and MiMO buildings are being demolished at a blistering pace. The East Island was listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Places in 2014.
Some of the Harbour Bay Condominium owners watched the horizon clear around them, only to then stand in the shadow of high rise condos with none of the characteristic MiMo charm or historic significance. In 2016, they approached the county’s Historic Preservation Board seeking historic designation to help protect the building from the pressures of development. To speed the process, the owners hired Heritage Architectural Associates, a preservation architecture firm with offices in Miami Beach, to prepare the designation report and present it before the Historic Preservation Board. After the Board voted unanimously to designate the building, a group of opponents appealed the decision to the County Commission.
Steven Avdakov (’94), an architect and principal of Heritage Architectural Associates, led the team of residents and historic preservation professionals that opposed revocation of the designation. Also speaking in favor of the designation were architect Gordon Loader (’86) of Heritage, Teri d’Amico, of D’Amico Design Associates, a long-time resident of Bay Harbor Islands who coined the term “MiMo”, and Christine Rupp, Executive Director of Dade Heritage Trust. Several of the Harbour Bay Condominium residents spoke passionately about their love of the building and their desire to have it historically designated. Several preservation professionals submitted letters of support for the designation. In addition, support was received from both local and national organizations, including the Dade Heritage Trust, the Miami Design Preservation League, the Florida Trust of Historic Preservation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Mr. Avdakov stated “the preservation of Harbour Bay Condominium is critical, not only for its architectural and historic significance, but also to provide a precedent for future planning in Bay Harbor Islands. Development pressures are only increasing. We commend the Miami-Dade County Commission for upholding this designation.”