Miami Beach Takes Ownership Of Altos Del Mar Site
By Marilyn Bowden
The City of Miami Beach is finally getting ownership of a strip of Atlantic coastline acquired 20 years ago by the State of Florida.
The Florida Cabinet, sitting as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, last week voted to turn over the deed for a little more than 4 acres of beachfront property at Collins Avenue between 76th and 77th streets to the city for $10.
The site, to be known as Altos Del Mar Park, is composed of 11 contiguous house lots of about 50 by 50 feet each stretching from Collins Avenue to the dunes, said Miami Beach Commissioner Jose Smith, who has long been involved in the city’s campaign to retrieve the land. The land will need to be maintained as a park or returned to the state.
Immediately to the south of Altos Del Mark Historic District, established in 1987, the land was the site of some of the area’s oldest homes and is, according to Mr. Smith, "potentially of greater historical significance than South Beach.
"There are a couple of historic homes there, built right after the turn of the last century, that are in awful condition," he said. "Our intent is to try to preserve one or both as part of the park concept. We’ve hired structural engineers to see if they can be saved."
Mr. Smith said city voters approved $2.9 million to design and construct the park in 1999 as part of a $92 million general obligation bond, but the city had to hold title to the land before spending the funds.
In July 2000, he said, the city commission voted to hire architectural firm Falcon & Bueno for $232,410 to draw plans for a park on the site once the title was secured.
The park’s design "will have to be sensitive to the existence of the residential neighborhood immediately to the north," Commissioner Smith said. "It might be something like an interpretive center, which would include the existing single-family homes, where people could go to learn about the history of the North Beach area or sit and look at nature as opposed to less passive activities."
City Manager Jorge M. Gonzalez said the acquisition was made possible through the city’s positive partnership with state government.
"Not only have we furthered conservation and quality-of-life efforts through this venture," he said, "but we have created a legacy of fulfillment for generations of our residents to enjoy."
In 1983 the state’s Department of Natural Resources, since renamed the Department of Environmental Protection, paid nearly $6.7 million for the Altos Del Mar property and 11 other, non-contiguous lots between 77th and 79th streets, said spokesperson Cathalyn Gaither, as part of its Save Our Coast initiative.
Throughout the 1980s the department tried to acquire more properties in the area, but private owners accepted none of its offers. A 1986 bond referendum that would have granted the city the funds to acquire the property was defeated at the polls.
In 1989 the state terminated its acquisition efforts. Four years later, the state Cabinet approved a request to dispose of the 22 lots acquired.
Ms. Gaither said bids for the sale of the 11 non-contiguous lots opened in March 2002. Later that year the Board of Trustees approved the sale of these lots for single-family-home use for a total of $8.75 million. One was sold to a private buyer; General Real Estate bought the other 10.
Since the state had recovered more than its original investment, she said, the city’s request for title to the remaining 11 lots was approved. The deed will include a clause stating that if it’s used for any other use other than recreational or open space, Ms. Gaither said, the land will revert to the state.