The Dade Commonwealth Bank Building – at 139 NE 1 Street in the downtown Miami historic district – was originally built in 1925 as a 17-story structure called the Meyer-Kiser Bank Building. It was the tallest building in this young City of Miami until it was severely damaged in the 1926 hurricane. Instead of rebuilding completely, owners at the time reduced the building’s height to just seven stories, where it has remained ever since.
Yesterday, the City of Miami’s Historical and Environmental Preservation Board (HEPB) unanimously approved several waivers and a “special certificate of appropriateness” to allow current owner, Dream Downtown Miami LLC, to restore the Dade Commonwealth to it’s original 17-stories.
Dream Downtown Miami LLC, a joint venture between Gilbert Benhamou’s Immocorp Capital and Paris-based Beekman REIM, bought the property for $9.2 million in November of 2015. Their plan is to convert the Dade Commonwealth into a boutique hotel, complete with a roof-top pool and a lobby-level restaurant. As described to the HEPB yesterday, in addition to rebuilding the structure to it’s original 17-stories, they intend to restore the historical facade and original lobby. They also plan to preserve the historic bank vault as a point of interest.
The discussion between HEP board members, Megan Cross Schmitt (Preservation Officer at City of Miami), and representatives for Dream Downtown Miami was very interesting. I am impressed at the dedication of all the parties to addressing environmental, historical, and quality of life concerns while still encouraging the growth of our beautiful downtown area.
One of the items requested was a waiver on the number of trees required for the site. There simply isn’t room on the existing lot, with it’s historical footprint, to add trees. At the board’s suggestion, Gilbert Benhamou agreed to provide the number of trees required by city code to allow them to be planted elsewhere in our downtown historic district.
My favorite part of the conversation, however, was around creating an architectural marker between the 7th & 8th stories to mark transition from historic construction to reproduction. This will be coupled with educational friezes or panels in the lobby telling the colorful history of the Dade Commonwealth Bank Building. I look forward to seeing this lovely building restored to it’s original 17-story glory.