A church building that was once treasured enough to be dismantled, moved eight blocks and then put back together like a precious puzzle, may once again be spared demolition.
Since the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Fort Lauderdale’s Flagler Village neighborhood decided to sell to a developer, historic preservationists have worried the city would lose another piece of the past.
Tuesday, Fort Lauderdale city commissioners said they intend to designate the church building a historic landmark.
But they postponed a final vote to June 6 so they can determine how much of the property to affix the label to, and to ensure that the larger project it’s a part of, a 16-story mixed-use project called URBN Flagler Village, isn’t stalled or harmed by the designation. The city also will research what influence it can have on what the church building is used for.
“I think it’s an important enough structure to make sure it’s cut in stone,” Commissioner Romney Rogers said of the preservation label.
The church, at 441 Northeast Third Ave., didn’t want the designation. Neither does the developer who’s buying it, TAHO Investments.
Developer’s attorney Courtney Crush said the church structure would be kept intact. But the developer fears the handcuffs of a historic designation, which requires extra approvals for changes to a historic building. The label also can limit what’s built around it.
Crush said the developer plans to “take something that the community values, its very interesting architecture, and incorporate it” into the mixed-used project. She said that could be done without the designation.
“We have not embraced history,” Crush said of the city, talking about the uncertainties of the city’s redevelopment process for historic properties. “I think the way to do it is encourage developers, homeowners, to move forward and try to build, repurpose and develop, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
But city commissioners and members of the community had a sour reaction to how the preservation efforts have been handled by the church.
“A lot of people have been hurt; a lot of lies have been told,” lamented the Rev. Paul J. Pfadenhauer, who served twice as interim pastor there and submitted the historic application with resident Robin Haines Merrill.
In September, the pastor, Rev. William Knott, sold the stained glass in the church to another church he’s associated with, Abiding Savior Lutheran Church. The loss of the glass, even though it’s not the church’s original glass, ignited a furor.
Crush said the developer is seeking to buy the glass back.
“The way this has been handled has been an embarrassment,” Mayor Jack Seiler said of the windows.
According to historians, the 1921 Romanesque style structure was the first Roman Catholic Church in the county, when it stood on Las Olas Boulevard.
The Catholics later decided to build a larger church, and sold it for a mere $1 as a gesture of brotherly love to the Lutherans, who moved it in the 1940s, according to the historic designation application.
Merrilyn Rathbun, the city’s historic preservation consultant, said it was worth labeling, as “a rare, Romanesque-style building, unique to Fort Lauderdale and Florida. … There is nothing else like it in the city.”
In December, the city’s Historical Preservation Board recommended it be declared a landmark.
Knott wasn’t at Tuesday’s meeting but in recent letters to the city he complained the forced historic designation “reflects poorly on our city’s government.”“At no point in our 90-plus year history had the city ever hinted that our property was not ours to use in our ongoing mission and ministry without their interference,” his letter says.
When historic buildings make economic sense
By Kai Ryssdal - Marketplace
NEW TIMES BROWARD/PALM BEACH
Miami Developers Demolish Historic Fort Lauderdale Beach Building
TUESDAY, AUGUST 2, 2016 AT 9:18 A.M.
BY JESS SWANSON
[Before and after photos of Villa Torino's demolition.] EXPAND
Before and after photos of Villa Torino's demolition.
Courtesy of the Broward Trust for Historic Preservation
On Saturday morning, Charlie Esposito woke up to a loud, screeching racket. But the Fort Lauderdale Beach homeowner couldn’t bring himself to go outside. After spending more than a year fighting developers to preserve Alhambra Street’s historic Art Moderne buildings, Esposito knew it was the sound of defeat. A piece of Fort Lauderdale beach architecture history was coming down for good.
“It just sounded terrible,” Esposito tells New Times. “It’s hard to believe that we couldn’t save it. I couldn’t stand to watch it go down.”
The Villa Torino is the second building demolished on Alhambra Street in the last year. The two-story stucco apartment, with scored horizontal lines, asymmetrical design, and a stepped chimney, was awarded historic status by the city’s Historic Preservation Board in an 8-to-1 ruling. Commissioners overturned that recommendation last July, so as prices skyrocket and developers inch their way up the coast, residents like Esposito find themselves battling multimillion-dollar developers to preserve the quaint aesthetic of their neighborhoods.
“A lot of people fight for nothing, but this is something,” he says. “I didn’t care how long it took, but getting anything past the commission was like throwing a hamburger through a brick wall.”
OTO Development had plans to demolish the structures to build a ten-story, 175-room AC Hotel by Marriott. A quaint, single family home from 1936 was awaiting a hearing before the Historic Preservation Board but was demolished before that could happen. Residents like Esposito vowed to save two other properties on the street — the 1936 Villa Torino and another 1938 building designed by famed architect Courtney Stewart (who also designed the Coca-Cola bottling plant on Andrews Avenue) — from suffering a similar fate. Esposito and another neighbor petitioned the city in court to have the commission’s judgment reviewed.
Last month, Miami-based Key International purchased three parcels, which include the demolished 1930s home, Villa Torino, and the property designed by Courtney Stewart on Alhambra Street for $9.6 million. Vice President Dan Mathason told the Sun-Sentinel the company was in “no hurry to develop” the property, but last week residents reported a bulldozer there and learned the company had filed for a demolition permit. Esposito’s attorney rushed to apply for an emergency injunction, but by the time the bulldozer pulled up at Villa Torino, the court had not responded.
“If they were in no rush to develop it, then why did they have to demolish this pristine historical building?” says Steve Glassman, president of the Broward Trust for Historic Preservation. “It makes you scratch your head.”
[Miami Developers Demolish Historic Fort Lauderdale Beach Building] EXPAND
Courtesy of the Broward Trust for Historic Preservation
Esposito believes developers only sprang into action to demolish the property before a court ruling might have prevented them from developing the street. But developers don’t see it that way. They believe the fight for historic preservation is a veiled attempt by residents to keep their ocean views.
“The building was altered so much that it couldn’t be historic,” says Inigo Ardid, copresident of Key International. “This was not about a building but about how people find loopholes to not get their views blocked.”
· Either way, residents are disheartened. Esposito wants to protect the last remaining Art Moderne structure on the street: the four-unit Alhambra Beach resort. It was designed by Courtney Stewart, who, in addition to the Coca-Cola bottling plant, built iconic buildings across the city including McCrory’s Store, Fort Lauderdale High School, Blanche Ely High School, and more.
“Our history isn’t as old or as esteemed as the architecture that goes back hundreds of years,” says Glassman. “But it is ours. Can you imagine how the cities up north would look if they had the same attitude and believed nothing was worth preserving?
Sun Sentinel May 3, 2017
It's time to give Lutheran church designation it deserves | Letters .
On Saturday, May 20, 2017, residents from all over Broward County attended the 43rd Annual Broward County Pioneer Day presented by the County Historic Preservation Board in conjunction with the County Cultural Division and the City of Parkland. It was a day to honor Pioneers nominated by their respective municipalities and to celebrate the history of Broward County. In addition to the honoring of the Pioneers, four special awards were given to individuals and organizations. The Broward Trust for Historic Preservation is very proud and honored to have received the Stuart P. McIver Historian’s Award in recognition of our work and for contributing to the mission of the Broward County Historic Preservation Board. Trust President Steven Glassman accepted the award on behalf of the Board and membership and in his remarks stressed the importance of preserving physical manifestations of our history for future generations and celebrating that architecture. Steve also reiterated how historic preservation and development are not mutually exclusive and pointed out that many cities in our nation enjoy strong economic impacts from preservation efforts.
Congratulations to all of the Pioneers and Special Award recipients! The Trust was so pleased to be a part of an event that was so full of spirit and touching personal histories and deeply appreciates the efforts of the presenters in bringing back this event after a three-year hiatus.
On May 2, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission should give historic designation to First Evangelical Lutheran Church, at 441 NE Third Ave. Architectural identity and charm are being systematically obliterated. This would be another unique structure sacrificed to the gods of development, whom it appears our elected officials worship above all others.
The church became Lutheran after the Catholic Church sold it for one dollar. It represents a history of residents cooperating despite differing faiths. Moved block-by-block to its current location, the fortitude and dedication that entailed makes preservation important.
Criteria necessary for a city historic landmark have been met. Designation was approved by the Historic Preservation Board, and supported by the Broward Trust for Historic Preservation. Flagler Village's Association voted to preserve the sanctuary.
When a developer's desires are concerned, this commission has been hostile to building preservation despite historic value. Will the commission once again dishonor the wishes of its residents?
Fort Lauderdale says it will declare
First Lutheran Church a historic landmark
- Brittany Wallman
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F O R H I S T O R I C P R E S E R V A T I O N
Sun Sentinel May 1, 2017