Theses Master's

The Progression of Historic Preservation in Miami Beach and the Challenges of Sea Level Rise

Weinstein, Laura Allyn

Climate-based disasters caused $46 billion in damage and killed at least 138 in the 48 contiguous United States last year, with inland flooding emerging as the costliest weather event for the first time since 1997.1 The number of billion-dollar occurrences in 2016 was the second highest since 1980.2 Combined with increasing sea levels on prone low-lying coastal areas, disaster mitigation has been a top concern of municipalities. Miami Beach currently averages just four feet above sea level, and has already begun to rigorously experiment with resiliency infrastructure.3 This is especially concerning as experts estimate beachfront property in Miami-Dade County to be valued at $15 billion, with over $3.5 trillion in losses by 2070.4 This thesis examines a chronological progression of historic preservation in Miami Beach as a case study for understanding and applying past lessons learned for future integration within citywide resiliency planning and adaptation.
Current conditions and future constraints necessitate timely, proactive action plans, with at least 28% of historic resources at risk by 2050, and 56% by 2100.5 Understanding how municipal policies were accomplished, the compromises that had to be made, and historical reactions to past challenges will help Miami Beach move forward as a city at the forefront of applying solutions and adapting to concerns between climate change resiliency and historic resources. The past success of economic and architectural revitalization in Miami Beach through historic preservation needs to be applied as a future societal benefit with positive sustainability contributions in the face of the inevitability of sea level rise. The City of Miami Beach should integrate historic preservation into resiliency planning to allow the expenditure of adaptation of historic structures as municipal capital improvement projects. While the ideal scenario would involve federal and state contributions, the current neoliberal governmental environment should rely mainly on increased municipal funding resources.6 This thesis demonstrates their importance not only as “public goods”, but also as drivers of economic, architectural, and environmental success, which deserve the same amount of fiscal attention as large-scale infrastructure projects currently underway.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Clark, Carol A.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 5, 2017