Friday, March 1, 2013

I submitted a nomination today... the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the Gulfstream Hotel to be placed on the 11 Most Endangered List for 2013.  This is an annual list of historic properties around the United States that face some sort of threat.  The following is the nomination I submitted.  The list is announced in May of each year.  The deadline just happened to be today.

11 Most Endangered Nomination Form 2013


Contact Name:  Wes Blackman


Name of Place: Gulfstream Hotel

Location:  Lake Worth, Florida

Date Submitted: 3/1/13


Please write a short paragraph explaining why this place should be listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2013 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Places (250 words):  

Response: The Gulfstream Hotel (1925) is a 6-story, 135 room landmark hotel in Lake Worth, Florida, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The hotel occupies the most prominent piece of land in downtown Lake Worth – directly on Lake Avenue, one of a pair of main east/west streets through the city.  According to the Statement of Significance contained in the National Register nomination, it is a “rare survivor among resort hotels built during the 1920s Land Boom era.”  While the hotel is relatively unchanged since its beginning, it has been closed for business since late 2005.  It is currently in foreclosure proceedings with little impetus on the side of the owner or the lender to resolve the issue.  The room size and layout of the hotel is functionally obsolete and, in order to function with an economically viable business model, the historic hotel would have to be paired with a new development on the large empty lot on the western side of the property.  The city's voters are facing a referendum on the ballot in March, 2013 which would limit height in the downtown area to 45 ft. thus reducing the economic viability of any future sensitive redevelopment of the western side of the property.  The referendum is likely to pass.  Having the Gulfstream Hotel appear on the 11 Most Endangered List would send a wake-up call to the community about the possible peril the hotel may face.  Besides possible demolition-by-neglect given the tropical climate and prolonged closure, likely uses could include a group home, an assisted living facility and the like.  Its legacy as a destination hotel would be lost forever.

Provide a brief description of the project including its significance and the threat it faces, what are the specific reasons the place would be of interest to the public?  (300 words)

Response:  The Gulfstream Hotel enjoyed life as a destination resort for many years.  It is representative of the 1920s Florida Boom architectural period and is built in the Mediterranean Revival style.  It is one of few such hotels in south Florida that have survived into the 21st Century.  It is one of the city's few individual listings on the National Register of Historic Places and was listed as a National Trust for Historic Preservation hotel during its last operation as a hotel.  During the middle part of the last century, it was part of a group of hotels that would share staff during the changing seasons with northern hotels.  Guests and staff would migrate from one to the other, following the change in seasons and more temperate weather.  This sort of resort model has disappeared for a number of reasons, but the main building remains essentially unchanged physically.  For the past thirty or so years, the building has been owned by many different parties, is currently in foreclosure and has been out of operation since 2005.

Coincidentally, Lake Worth is celebrating its Centennial this year and it is indeed ironic that its iconic historic hotel sits empty and is not providing a place for tourists to stay in a town that was built for the tourism trade.  Including the Gulfstream Hotel on the 11 Most Endangered List would send a “wake-up call” to the city and surrounding communities about its plight and would rally support for more aggressive preservation efforts – including the re-establishment of hotel operations there.  It might also combat a “no growth” philosophy that severely restricts building heights on the hotel's nearly vacant western half of the property.  Any new development on that side of the property would have to provide parking for the existing historic hotel and parking for amenities or rooms that would be part of a new building.


Describe the nature and urgency of the threat (200 words)

Response:  The historic Gulfstream Hotel has been closed for the past 7 years with no immediate prospect of opening.  Deferred maintenance is already taking its toll with an empty pool now an attractive nuisance and code violation, balustrades are beginning to crumble and there is water damage inside the 1925 era building from roof leaks and plumbing problems.  It will take more than turning the lights on to re-establish a hotel use for the building.  Prior to closing, variances were issued by the city to allow for an expanded kitchen area and moving the pool to the second floor.  These efforts were stymied by near-by residents who appealed the Historic Preservation Board's decision and it was overturned – leaving the refurbishment of the hotel in a legal limbo.  The current situation with the lender does not lead one to believe the foreclosure will proceed quickly and is currently blocking the sale of the building to another party.  Documentation of this situation is available through a recent local news story.  Besides the deterioration of the structure, it is looking more and more as it might eventually fall in the hands of a non-profit, non-tax paying entity that would run an assisted living facility or a group home – further stifling the local economy and damaging the city's historic downtown.

Describe potential solutions to the threat (200 words)

Response:  Education in the form of an awareness of the plight faced by the historic property is needed so that residents of Lake Worth understand the importance of the Gulfstream Hotel in the city's development.  This is especially true as the city celebrates its centennial year.  Great public awareness by your organization placing the Gulfstream Hotel on the 11 most endangered list would motivate the community to look at realistic, non-reactionary alternatives to save the historic building and re-establish a hotel operation on the property.  Currently, the public sentiment is that they value the hotel, but the public is not being realistic about what it would take to save this property and restore its role in the local economy.  Pressure could also be put on the lending consortium and current ownership to conclude the foreclosure so the property could be placed in the hands of an owner with more resources to address the situation and benefit the community.  After all, this is one of the few individually designated local historic resources that is on the National Register.

Is there a local organization already in place working to save the site?  Please describe the organization's efforts and how it would take advantage of the increased public attention generated by being listed on the National Trust's 11 Most list (250 words)

Response: There is no formally organized group working to save the site other than a local political action committee called “Friends of the Gulfstream,” formed to defeat the draconian height limitation on the March 2013 ballot which would severely limit redevelopment opportunities.  While the public sentiment is favorable in terms of the historic importance of the hotel, it is usually expressed in platitudes but no concrete effort is underway, except for one person nominating this property to be on the 11 Most Endangered list.  Being placed on this list would place a national spotlight on the plight of the hotel, the importance of its role for tourism in the state of Florida and attract interested parties in preserving the hotel that have more financial and operational resources than are available locally.  It would also serve to educate the public about the need to have realistic and sensitive options for redevelopment of the vacant property which makes up the western half of the hotel property – now essentially a surface parking lot.  A reasonable height limit established through local action would allow more opportunities for the long-term preservation and re-establishment of a hotel operation on the property.  This would have a community benefit that would create a quality place for tourists to stay that is mainly non-existent within the city of Lake Worth now.  Anyone visiting for festivals, visiting relatives or wishing to simply stay in Lake Worth has to find lodging outside the city – sometimes requiring a trip of 10 to 15 miles depending on room availability in the central Palm Beach County area.  Those tourist dollars are lost to other, less economically needy communities.

What specific ways can a person (or local preservationist) get involved to help save this place from the threat it faces?  (150 words)

Response:  An informational and educational campaign is needed to pressure the parties involved and proceed to the final steps of the foreclosure process.  A promotional campaign, on a national basis, is needed to find a new owner that would respect the history of the Gulfstream Hotel and have the resources to renovate and operate this historic building as a hotel once again.  The local city government needs to enact reasonable zoning regulations that will allow redevelopment of the vacant parcel to the west of the historic hotel building.  Having the property placed on the 11 Most Endangered list will end the neglect and apathy that surrounds the Gulfstream Hotel property and bring this beautiful structure back to life again.