Under Utilization in the CBD: Part III (Un-designated Historic)

Continued from Part II of Under Utilization in the CBD

Historic but not Designated

In the last Under-Utilization post I discussed buildings that are designated as historic by the HEPB and the set of eight criteria used to officially distinguish them. It was noted that there are a few examples of impressive and well-known antiquated buildings that are not officially designated historic. In considering these un-designated but old structures, I will only refer to those that either are being well utilized or demonstrate favorable utilization/restoration conditions. Let’s consider some of them.


The Seybold Building serves as the central hub for the Jewelry District and jewelry market in the region. Most of the major diamond and gemstone wholesalers are based in and around it. The building interior is finely appointed with marble floors and columns, but the attention to detail is mostly confined to the first floor (main gallery) where the main jewelry stores are situated. As important as the Seybold Building is to the local jewelry industry, the exterior sides are deteriorated and an eyesore. Despite its functional and historic significance the Seybold remains un-designated.


  • Burdines (Macy’s) Building (1947)

The Burdines (Macy’s) Building is probably the poster child of an under-utilized historic structure. It is not designated as historic by the HEPB, since an application has not been filed. Still, since Federated converted the store to a Macy’s, there have been no real changes to the exterior or interior of the multi-story historic structure.

The Macy’s building is the largest of its kind in the region. The location and structure scale fits the profile of some of Federated’s most high-profile Macy’s locations throughout the country, yet it seems Federated is pushing for incentives to remain in place. The rumors have gone back and forth regarding FDS’ ultimatums, but Dana Nottingham indicated that despite reports to the contrary, FDS has played an active role in planning for the overhaul of Flagler and the Downtown area. If this is true, then it may mark a change in the under-utilized status quo. a Macy’s revamp would propel reuse in the direction of retail in the surrounding area.


This Dade Commonwealth Building has undergone both the 40-year recertification and a renovation by the Titan Group. It is one of the most colorful additions to the portfolio of (un-designated) historic buildings in the CBD. The Building is not being used in any unorthodox way and houses a variety of small offices. Such a building is too big to house one retail entity such as is the trend in with historic structures along the Collins Avenue Shopping District. It does, however, fit in well with what is being done with residences in the Security Building and First National Bank Building.

There are inherit problems with such a change of use: lack of quality views, terraces, and high ceilings. One would have to incorporate innovative floor plans and respectable luxurious appointments to draw the necessary interest. Green features would make such a project even more interesting albeit pricey to re-develop. Still, there is a market of architecturally conscience buyers that might find such a development appealing.


  • 22 N.E.1st Street – a.k.a. International Jewelry Center (1930)

This building’s interior was restored to a respectable degree. Marble was laid in patterns, floor to ceiling glass storefronts were installed to lure retailers, and the elevators were newly installed as well. The purpose was to lure jewelry related businesses away from the Seybold Building. The effort thus far has not materialized and most of the stores remain vacant. This building is situated adjacent to the Seybold and there have been rumors that its acquisition by the folks at Seybold is imminent. The purpose of such an acquisition would be to connect the two structures and enhance the main floor space at the Seybold (its important to note that this building is actually separated into two properties which have grandfathered-in the electrical and mechanical systems. The other side is known as the Flagler Jewelry Center)

The failure of the International Jewelry Center to gain tenants in the realm of the Jewelry industry brings to question the viability of such a narrow approach. Would it have been better to target retailers not necessarily associated with Jewelry? Was naming the building “International Jewelry Center” a deterrent for other non-jeweler tenants to come in? The reuse of this building has been a failure despite a serous interior renovation.


  • Lerner Building (1925)

The Lerner building, situated next to the Macy’s building, is currently in a haunted-like state. The 1920’s era building has appealing marble facades. The reuse of such a building screams retail. This building does not, in my opinion, lend itself to much adaptability. It falls under the kind of structures that have been lending themselves to retail use in the Collins Avenue Shopping District except on a bit larger scale. Such a structure can house a high end Tiffany-like jewelry store or a high end retail boutique. Clearly, the market and on-the-ground conditions don’t foster such a reuse but if Federated gets it act together next door as they are doing with the Macy’s on Lincoln Road, then it’ll go a long way in making the Lerner property more desirable for reuse.


  • Royalton Apartments (1923)

The Royalton Apartments are being renovated, as you can clearly see in the image above. Although I’m not sure as to what the use of the newly renovated structure will be, this is an ideal candidate for a boutique hotel. There are currently none in the downtown area although that can change as the George Washington of Boutique Hotels, Ian Schrager, owns the nearby Continental Riande Hotel on Biscayne Blvd., and has not yet disclosed his plans. Regardless of what the use of this building might be, the fact that it’s undergoing a renovation is a step in the right direction.


  • 33 N.E. 1st Avenue (1925)

This building is easily over looked being sandwiched in between its neighbors. Situated on the same block as the First National Bank renovation, the 33 building is ideally scaled for retail or even restaurant use. It is symbolic of a few others in the CBD that are similarly scaled and aged. Miami 21’s T6 zoning of the area will probably pave the way for their demolition, but some represent interesting reuse potential.


  • Biscayne Building (1926)

Since the Biscayne Building is situated on a corner, it makes a residential reuse more appealing–as is the case with Flagler First at the First National Bank Building. However, the scale of this building and the lack of unique architectural features leaves it vulnerable to scrapping. The lower portion of the structure has intricate concrete etchings but the top is lackluster. Among the least desirable of the un-designated historic buildings, it is currently being used by small professional firms.


  • 101 S.E. 1st Street (1920)

Recently renovated, 101 S.E. 1st Street is a great candidate for retail reuse. It is situated conspicuously on a corner on S.E. 1st street and 1st Avenue. A Banana Republic or Kenneth Cole store comes to mind, but again, the CBD has no new retail precedent to fall and the lack of change at the Macy’s is not helping.


Dade Federal Savings

Similar to the 101 building, the Dade Federal Saving Building is ideally located and scaled for retail. Everything that has been placed there has been an utter failure but incoming occupants in the Security Building and Flagler first developments might help to bolster its reuse desirability.


Preserving the Historic Integrity of the CBD

As you can see there are a number of buildings in the CBD that are not protected by a historic designation but probably should be. Many would argue that the emphasis should be on demolishing the old in place of the new, but there are plenty of un-restorable under-utilized buildings in the CBD along with vacant space that would better suit new construction.

The aforementioned buildings should be maintained and reused in order to preserve the historic integrity of the CBD. There should be an open mind when it comes to considering adaptive reuse options for these buildings. New building and green technology should be incorporated wherever possible to make their reuse potential greater. The CBD’s historic nature lends itself to the evolution of an architecturally and historically multifaceted core if the cards are played right


Filed under BoB Articles, CBD: Financial District, CBD: Jewelry District, CBD: Overtown, Gentrification, History

6 responses to “Under Utilization in the CBD: Part III (Un-designated Historic)

  1. Kevin

    Again, great job, thank you! I really hope all these historical buildings are preserved and revamped, it’d be amazing to see downtown filled with life again!

  2. Verticus

    Loved it. Thanks for the effort. There are some really great old buildings downtown and almost each one when stumbled upon is a revelation. The Gesu Catholic church is another pleasant surprise. It may not look like much from the outside, but inside, it’s all stained glass and open space.

  3. Thanks V! The Gesu is beautiful both inside and out. I’m going to be posting some images of that and the Central Baptist Church soon. so many Miamians are unaware that Dtown has some stunning sacred spaces.

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