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After Deauville implosion, property's future remains uncertain

Verónica Zaragovia/WLRN
A crowd gathered to watch the implosion of the Deauville Beach Resort at just after 8 a.m. on Nov. 13, 2022.

In 2004, the Deauville Beach Resort received its contributing structure designation within the North Beach Resort Local Historic District. Not only was its architectural style historic — locally called Miami Modern and designed by Melvin Grossman — some highly notable people passed through it, like President John F. Kennedy who spoke there, and the Beatles, who played on the Ed Sullivan Show in the early 1960s.

The hotel's owner, listed as Deauville Associates, LLC, which is managed by Belinda Meruelo, closed the building in 2017 because of an electrical fire and, later, water damage from Hurricane Irma. Preservationists tried to save the Deauville for years, and the City of Miami Beach tried to get the owners to repair the building by suing them. The building was deemed too unsafe, though, after an inspection, and it was brought down.

Crowds gathered to watch from the beachside and across the street on Indian Creek Drive. A voice shouted, "Here we go!" and within seconds, the building crumbled down.

Watching the clouds of smoke, Lourdes Noda said she remembered seeing jazz musician Arturo Sandoval perform at the Deauville. She and her husband own an apartment a couple of blocks away on Collins Avenue, and they had various other memories from inside the building, like eating breakfast at the Deauville after buying their place to celebrate. "A lot of memories," she said. "It's quite sad."

Verónica Zaragovia/WLRN
Smoke clouds billowed after the historic Deauville Beach Report was imploded using dynamite on Nov. 13, 2022 in Miami Beach.

Noda had tried to document the implosion.

"I was filming and my phone dropped," she said. "Got so emotional."

Florentino Hernandez also came to watch. He said he would remember its good years when he'd bike past it frequently.

"Wow! Wow! That vibration, that shock came through all of us," Hernandez said. "it’s like, wow! I just kept saying ‘wow’ – it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced."

On Election Day, Miami Beach voters rejected a measure to develop a tall condominium building and a hotel on the site, which would've been designed by architect Frank Gehry. Stephen Ross chairs the real estate development company behind it, the Related Companies. He put almost $2 million into getting voters to approve the redevelopment.

Opponents worried that because the project would have exceeded current building size regulations after it would've received final approval from city commissioners, the nature of the historic district would've changed and encouraged other developers to follow suit.

Herman Grabosky, who lives in North Beach, said he would have wanted that proposal to pass. "It's been sad, it's been an eyesore, he said. "Pretty frustrating that somebody's not doing more with that land and also sad to see it go with all the history and that style."

Grabosky hopes something gets built, regardless of size.

"As long as they do something substantial that’s positive for the neighborhood, positive for the area — whichever way that goes," he added.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber wrote, in an email to residents after the implosion, that he hopes a new proposal will keep the property from remaining vacant.

"We will need to be creative, but also recognize that our goals have to be to deliver something that works for you, our bosses," Gelber wrote.

Verónica Zaragovia was born in Cali, Colombia, and grew up in South Florida. She’s been a lifelong WLRN listener and is proud to cover health care for the station. Verónica has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master's degree in journalism. For many years, Veronica lived out of a suitcase (or two) in New York City, Tel Aviv, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, D.C., San Antonio and Austin, where she worked as the statehouse and health care reporter with NPR member station KUT.