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The Art Deco jewels of Miami Beach

The Edroy, built in 1938. Art Deco apartment building by Lawrence Murray Dixon, one of the developers of the "Tropical Art Deco" style.
The Edroy, built in 1938. Art Deco apartment building by Lawrence Murray Dixon, one of the developers of the "Tropical Art Deco" style.

Every January, Miami Beach celebrates the triumph of Art Deco architecture. For the past 33 years, the Art Deco Weekend has honored the preservation of the Art Deco buildings that had been slated for demolition by developers in the late 1970s.

Art Deco detail at the Edroy Building, by Lawrence Murray-Dixon
George Gandelman

Designed by a group of brilliant architects between 1920 and 1930 this collection of small hotels and apartment buildings merged the artistic influences surfacing in Europe at that time with the marine and tropical themes of Miami Beach. The result is a distinctive style that, although it follows the original inspiration with its sleek, strong lines, streamlined floral details and geometric patterns, is uniquely Miami Beach.

We still have these buildings thanks to Barbara Baer Capitman who led a group of activists to prevent the destruction of the then decaying edifices. Their struggle gave birth of the Art Deco District, designated as historic in May of 1979. The District contains the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world, represented by about 800 buildings, many of which have been lovingly restored.

Today these buildings attract investors and tourists from around the world, and their values have grown beyond anything then imaginable. The classiest Art Deco examples are along Ocean Drive, the famous pedestrian thoroughfare lined with fine hotels and restaurants. This area also commands the highest prices. In the old, charming neighborhoods between Collins and Meridian Avenues, there are also many renovated buildings. Most are rental apartments, while others have been converted to elegant condominiums and some have been refurbished as enchanting hotels. Scores of businesses share the same Art Deco structures in the commercial areas, such as the well-known Lincoln Road. Newer buildings complete the scenery.

Investment opportunities range from a residential condominium on Ocean Drive for $1,000,000, to the penthouse of the newly-renovated Carlyle Hotel for a nifty $5,300,000. At The Setai, a 2004, 40-story luxury resort on Collins Avenue, the penthouse is listed for a respectable $22,000,000. In contrast, a tiny oceanfront studio at the Shelborne Ocean Beach Hotel, built in 1940, is offered for $119,000. In between, at The Governor Hotel, a classic Art Deco building renovated in 2008, a one-bedroom unit is available for $309,000.

Commercial properties here make great investments. Apartment, office and mixed-use buildings, retail condos and hotels are available for the farsighted investors. An Ocean Drive retail condo is available for $1,295,000; a mixed-use building on Michigan Avenue can be had for $2,500,000, while a 1934 boutique hotel on Park Avenue under renovation is listed for $4,900,000. Recent sales include The 1936 Beach Plaza Hotel, on Collins Avenue, for $12,250,000, and a 1958, 61-unit multifamily on Meridian Avenue for $6,000,000.


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