I am an architectural historian who worked with Morris Lapidus, the father of modern Lincoln Road, for the last seven years of his life, the curator of his professional estate and a long-time student of Lincoln Road. As such, I support the neighborhood revitalization effort to pedestrianize the 200-300 blocks of Lincoln Road and reorganize the 100 block for aesthetic and life-safety access to the beach.
Lapidus would be thrilled to see his dream of connecting a pedestrianized Lincoln Road to the beach walk and the ocean finally come to life. His plans also included an arch to be the landmark gateway to the beach.
He tasked me to complete this dream for him. He would applaud the $12 million public-private partnership that the owners of the Ritz-Carlton and Sagamore South Beach are spearheading in conjunction with Miami Beach Commissioner Alex Fernandez. This project will complete what should have been a continuous pedestrian and commercial greenway to Collins Avenue. The proposed plan can mend the current broken links and create a grand concourse to the ocean.
Lapidus combined architecture with land planning to create people-oriented environments with a sense of place. Yet this district has experienced a steady drain of residents. This initiative will aid the city’s efforts to clean up areas experiencing crime and disrepair while drawing in new residents.
Lincoln Road was the city’s original residential district where Carl Fisher placed his home among a string of luxurious estates that lined the ocean. Even the subsequent oceanfront hotels all contained residential units that supported the nearby commercial enterprises. Reestablishing residences is now bringing the district back full circle to the successful mixed-use pattern of the past.
In addition, this restoration project will restore the Sagamore Hotel on Collins Avenue to its midcentury glory on the “skyline” block where Art Deco first went high-rise. Everyone who supports preservation should be thrilled to see the Art Deco treasures of this district brought back to life and the streets infused with new investment and energy.
Community preservation for vibrant neighborhoods is what makes architectural preservation feasible. This public-private partnership presents a template for how we can effectively solve many urban issues in the future.
Deborah Desilets, a historian, is curator of the late architect Morris Lapidus’ estate.