The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: Builder seeks to block historic designation for district

By Jane Smith
    
Hudson Holdings had its attorney write a warning letter to a state board, threatening to file an injunction unless it delayed the National Register review of the Old School Square Historic Arts District, said a principal of the Delray Beach developer.
    The Aug. 10 hearing will now be held Nov. 8, after the letter reached the Florida Historic Preservation Office in late July.
    “The application is flawed,” said Steven Michael, the Hudson Holdings principal. “It was not brought through the city process. … The property owners were not notified. … The City Commission did not sign off on it.”
    Michael is referring to the city’s rules for properties to be designated locally historic, said JoAnn Peart, president of the Delray Beach Preservation Trust. The nonprofit group sponsored the application of the Old School Square district.
    To be placed on the National Register of Historic Places, properties follow a different process. The nomination goes to the city’s Historic Preservation Board, then on to the state for recommendation to be placed on the National Register, Peart said. In 2014, she said, the trust used the same process to get the Marina Historic District on the National Register.
    Historic homes should not be moved and alleys cannot be abandoned in districts that want to be listed on the National Register, Peart said.
    The developer’s Midtown Delray Beach project sits in the southern half of the Old School Square district that is locally historic. The developers want to move some historic homes and demolish others to build the underground garage. Then the homes, on better foundations, would be moved a second time. They also want to use an abandoned alley to create a wide pedestrian plaza.
    “We are bringing back the homes to their original state,” Michael said. “The new buildings will be compatible.”
    The application writer, a historic planner for the city of Miami, and the preservation architect for Hudson Holdings sit on the five-member state review board. They cannot vote on the Old School Square district because they received a financial gain for their work.  
For more than a year, only four members attended the meetings. With two not being able to vote on the Old School Square application, it was not reviewed.

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