Downtown Casino Hits Historical Snag

MIAMI (CBS4) – Grandiose may be too small a word to use for plans to develop a multi-billion dollar, multi-tower, casino resort on Biscayne Bay, but the big plans of developers may have hit a bad luck streak in the form of opposition to the project by historians.

The casino project, if it gets a green light from the legislature, is slated to go up on the current site of the Miami Herald building.

The Genting Group, developers of mega-casinos around the world, has already paid $235 million for the Herald building and a surrounding ten acres. If history buffs prevail, it may prove to be money not well spent.

The Dade Heritage Trust(DHT), an influential historic preservation group, has voted to pursue an historic designation for the Herald building from the city of Miami.

If the city approves the designation, the building could not be razed and its exterior could not be altered.

“We’re not taking a stand on gambling, we are taking a stand on paying respect to a Miami landmark,” DHT Director Becky Roper Matkov told CBS4’s Gary Nelson on Tuesday.

Roper Matkov said the building is a prominent example of Miami Modern architecture – or MiMo – a boxy, contemporary style popular in the 50’s and 60’s.

“Even if you don’t love it, architecturally it’s a historically valuable structure, representative of buildings erected in the middle of the last century,” Matkov said.

Dr. Paul George, a historian at Miami Dade College, is among those who don’t find the Herald building particularly attractive, but he says it absolutely should be preserved.

“A lot of incredible personalities and political figures have been in that building for interviews,” George said. “The Herald has won 19 Pulitzer prizes in that building, so these things are important.”

The casino developers reacted to the move by historians with a strongly-worded statement, condemning both the Herald building and those backing the preservation effort.

The Herald building, that blocks a view of Biscayne Bay, was called “an affront to smart urban planning,” in a statement released by Christian Goode, president of Genting’s local subsidiary, Resorts World Miami.

Goode said the proposed casino project would be a boon to the local economy, bringing tourist revenue and much-needed jobs.

“Efforts to stall this progress show just how far opponents of sensible development will go in putting their interests above what’s best for everyday citizens in the community,” Goode said.

The Heritage Trust’s Roper Matkov responded that saving the Herald structure would not preclude casino gambling going on the site, although the proposal to erect four, 65 story towers might have to be scaled back for lack of space.

Roper Matkov noted that, even if the historic designation was given the newspaper building, it would not keep the owners from doing extensive remodeling inside.

“Actually, the press room, you could put a lot of slot machines in there,” she said.

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