Babylon Apartments Demolition Blocked… For Now
The City of Miami’s historic preservation board voted Tuesday evening to block demolition of the iconic Babylon Apartments on Brickell Bay Drive, which is one of architecture firm Arquitectonica’s very first buildings and one of its most iconic. Although the owner, Francisco “Paco” Martinez, who once stared in old spaghetti western movies under the name George Martin, was able to get the City of Miami to condemn the structure, the preservation board unanimously voted to consider preservation a day before Paco was to get his demolition permit. This places a 120 day moratorium on demolition, giving city staff time to further consider the historic importance of the building.
Since its age falls significantly short of the standard 50-year cutoff for historic preservation, the structure must meet a higher bar of “exceptional importance” to warrant historic designation. (It was designed in 1979 and completed in 1982) Preservationists, however, argue that is exactly what it is. “Few dispute the architectural originality of the small Brickell apartment building, distinguished by its vivid red, ziggurat-shaped face, its key role in shaping the redevelopment of Brickell as an urban residential district in the 1980s, or its role in gaining a worldwide rep for the young Arquitectonica.” writes Andres Viglucci in the Miami Herald. Meanwhile, prominent historian Arva Moore Parks calls the Babylon “truly an iconic building.” The Babylon stands among the Atlantis, the Pink House, and the Palace Condominium, as Arquitectonica’s most iconic early buildings, which themselves set the stylistic tone for Miami in the ’80s.