Statement | April 26, 2023

Statement from the National Trust for Historic Preservation on Legislation Impacting Historic Districts in Florida

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, in support of a coalition of preservation partners in Florida, has significant concerns about two bills currently under consideration by the Florida state legislature that could lead to demolition of historic structures and construction of oversized and inappropriate replacement buildings in Florida’s coastal historic districts. House Bill 1317 and Senate Bill 1346 would eliminate the role of local historic commissions in decision-making regarding demolition permits and new construction in coastal high hazard areas. These bills also remove opportunities for input from adjacent property owners and other members of the public regarding proposed demolitions or replacement structures in coastal historic districts.

If approved, these bills would threaten some of Florida’s and the nation’s most historic coastal communities, including Key West, Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, and Pensacola. St. Augustine, one of the nation’s oldest continually occupied communities, and Miami Beach, home of the internationally known Art Deco District, would be two of the most impacted communities. Miami Beach is widely recognized as one of the nation’s most prominent examples of preservation as a tool for economic development. More than 2,000 historic buildings in Miami Beach would be vulnerable to demolition and replacement if these bills are passed as currently written. This legislation could imperil many other examples of preservation-fueled economic development along Florida’s coastline.

Florida’s historic districts are irreplaceable architectural, historical, and community treasures. Countless private property owners have invested in the rehabilitation of historic buildings in these districts and helped revitalize local economies. For decades, preservation organizations, commission members, architects, developers, and city staff have helped plan and implement successful development projects in historic districts. The coalition of organizations raising significant concerns about this legislation includes the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, the Miami Design Preservation League, Dade Heritage Trust, the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach, and the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables, along with many local governments in communities that would be impacted by this legislation.

Like many of these organizations, the National Trust applauds efforts to make buildings in Florida’s coastal areas more resilient to the impacts of storms, flooding, and rising sea levels. We agree that actions are needed to ensure the safety of residents and structures in coastal areas, including those located in historic districts. Rather than impose the sweeping, one-size-fits-all solution proposed in this legislation, decision-making authority regarding demolition and replacement of historic structures must remain in the hands of the residents, property owners, local preservation commissions, and local governments who know their communities best.

Moreover, Florida’s historic preservation experts are established national leaders when it comes to preparing historic buildings and historic districts to meet the challenges of climate change. In Miami Beach, the local historic preservation commission has approved projects to raise historic buildings or move them out of harm’s way. St. Augustine has integrated flexible new historic district design guidelines that address the need for climate resilience. Importantly, new statewide guidance is being developed that will help owners make their historic properties more climate resilient and provide a model for other states.

Unless amended to exempt local historic landmarks, districts, and National Register of Historic Places districts, the National Trust joins preservation partners in Florida in opposing House Bill 1317 and Senate Bill 1346, which will imperil the proven success of Florida’s coastal historic districts.

Contact your state representatives to express your opposition to House Bill 1317 and Senate Bill 1346 due to the harm they would cause to coastal historic districts throughout Florida.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.
SavingPlaces.org | @savingplaces

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