Repurposed Historical Buildings of South Florida

“Adaptive reuse” or “adaptive re-use” architecture is the repurposing of buildings that have outlasted their original intended use or functions while retaining their original design elements. An increasing number of historic buildings in South Florida have applied adaptive reuse to their structures. On this edition of Learning from Miami we will visit some of these historic locations and witness their before and after transformations.

Dade Heritage Trust

Located at 190 S.E. 12th Terrace in the Brickell area of Miami is a one-story building that was once the medical office and surgical clinic of Miami’s first doctor, Dr. James M. Jackson.

Built in 1905, the building was originally located on Northeast 2nd Avenue. The Neo-Classical style building was sold in 1916 and moved to its current location. In 1975, the small medical facility was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 

Today, the historic office of Dr. Jackson is the headquarters of the Dade Heritage Trust, a non-profit organization that advocates the preservation of Miami-Dade’s architectural, environmental and cultural heritage.

The DHT’s office is in danger of being moved and the property sold to real-estate developers. In 2016, Miami voters approved a charter amendment for the City of Miami to enter a long-term lease, which would provide a stationary place for DHT to continue its work. The Miami City Commission is now considering selling the land to a private developer. The expense of the relocation, fixing any damage that the 115-year-old building would sustain in the move, providing utilities at a new site, and future ongoing maintenance would severely impact the historical building and the organization’s funding.

Miami’s Sears Tower

Built in 1929, the Sears Robuck and company building was once a popular four-story department store, located on Biscayne Boulevard and 13th Street. The building, designed by Nimmons, Carr and Wright, is the earliest known example of deco architecture in South Florida and predates South Beach’s Art Deco district.

In 1983, the Sears department store closed its doors. Sears had planned to relocate to a new store somewhere in downtown, but a combination of a slow economy and a bank foreclosure on an adjacent property convinced the project’s Canadian developer, Cadillac Fairview Corp., to abandon any plans for a new department store. Despite decades of neglect and repeated attempts to tear it down, the Sears Tower miraculously endured. The tower was added to the National Register on August 8, 1997.

By 2001, the only surviving part of the original building was the seven-story deco tower entrance, with the portion housing the department store already demolished. Developers decided to keep the tower and integrate it into the new performing arts center. The iconic Sears tower has been restored and repurposed as the Café at Books & Books anchor to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.

-Ursa Gil-


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