MIAMI BEACH, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Construction is now underway to transform the legendary Lincoln Theatre in the heart of South Beach from a historical movie theater into a modern retail establishment that preserves the building’s storied past while creating a flagship commercial space. When construction is complete, the developer’s restorative approach and adaptive design will be a case study in how to redevelop a prominent historical movie theater and symphony hall as a retail destination while restoring and recreating its original glamor and glory from the 1930s new age of cinematography.
Designed in 1935 by renowned cinema architect Thomas Lamb in the classic Art Deco style that defines South Beach, the 35,000 square foot mixed-use building is located on the pedestrian promenade known as the Lincoln Road Mall. It originally housed the movie theater, as well as medical offices and a pharmacy. It closed in the early 1980s and then was purchased in 1988 by the New World Symphony to serve as a performance hall, music academy and administrative office. When its transformation is complete in early November, it will house Swedish retailer H&M’s 30,000 square foot flagship store as well as a number of other smaller tenants including Swatch, Sabon, 4D Gelato and 100 Montaditos, a Spanish tapas and sandwich style restaurant with hundreds of European locations.
Touring the site during construction provides a fascinating behind-the-walls look at the rigorous process of meeting the requirements of both the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board and highly desirable international retail tenants.
"Taking down the walls is like peeling back layers of an onion,” said owner and developer Cliff Stein, president and CEO of Miami Beach-based Savitar Realty Advisors. “You discover vestiges of the building’s past and then the historical preservation board tells you what needs to be saved and what needs to be restored. The process is full of surprises.”
Stein assembled a group of investors and purchased the building, which spans 150 feet of prime frontage on Lincoln Road, for $21.5 million in February 2010. While he says the price of historical adaptation far exceeds usual construction costs, he believes the return on this unique investment will be a multiple of the purchase price.
The building has many stories to tell. During World War II, its owner donated the original aluminum marquis to the war effort, replacing it with a less expensive wood structure. Stein and his architectural team have replicated the original marquis in stainless steel.
“This is one of the first examples of the very successful adaptation of a historical movie theater into a major retail facility,” said William Cary, assistant director of the Miami Beach Planning Department. “It utilizes many of the original design features for modern merchandising purposes. It likely will be published in architectural journals as a prime example of how to make a historical building work for modern purposes.”
The protected features of the property include its signature façade on Lincoln Road, the original theater lobby and various elements uncovered during the construction process, including original water fountains, a mirror, coral rock wall tiles and a decorative lobby ceiling.
Stein also replaced a blank concrete wall in the rear of the building along Lincoln Lane with glass, providing a public view of the interior, which has been designed to maintain the look and feel of a two-story movie theater. From the side, the end of the space re-creates the look of a proscenium. A LED mesh wall, extending from the auditorium ceiling to the ground floor below, conceals what was once the stage and will serve as a multi-media screen for H&M, reminiscent of the movie theater screen that once hung in that space.
Stein is resurrecting the overlapping clamshell ceiling in the auditorium, with backlighting between each overlapping shell, replicating the original ceiling design of the movie theater.
Even after eliminating the slab between the second and third floors in the original office building to better suit a modern retail environment, its theatrical and art deco heritage is revealed and apparent.
“Good adaptive reuse respects a structure’s history – its story – while creating something altogether new,” said Allan Shulman, principal of the Shulman + Associates architectural firm commissioned to design the renovation. “The new design for the Lincoln Theatre proves that historical structures and commerce are complementary when a design is carefully conceived.”
About Savitar Realty Advisors
Clifford Stein formed Savitar Realty Advisors in 1987 to serve large financial institutions and government agencies on non-performing real estate investments. An accountant and attorney experienced in real estate investment and finance, he was appointed from 1993 to 2001 by the Florida governor to serve as Commissioner of the Florida Real Estate Commission, the governmental unit that oversees and regulates the real estate brokerage industry in Florida. In the 1990s, Stein served on the board of directors of real estate operating company subsidiaries of banks seized by the FDIC on behalf of the FDIC’s shareholder interests. Based in Miami Beach, Fla., Stein has successfully managed, purchased and sold commercial properties in several states, including Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, the Washington, D.C. area, Colorado and Tennessee.
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