|By Andres Viglucci, The Miami Herald
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 14, 2005 - The Dupont Plaza, the Everglades Hotel, the big old downtown tire store . . . Poof! All vanished, victims of the high-rise condo boom.
Now another one bites the dust: The obsolescent former Howard Johnson's on Biscayne Boulevard is to be imploded early today to make way for a 67-story condo tower.
It won't be the last to go.
Already coming down is 550 Brickell, the first office building on Brickell Avenue. It is now well under deconstruction. Soon to follow: the Sheraton Biscayne Bay across the street, not even 25 years old and once Brickell's nicest hotel.
Not all will be lamented.
The 550 Brickell building, designed around 1950 by eminent local architect Robert Law Weed, has many fans and is featured in MiMo, the new book on Miami Modern design. But the vacant tire store -- also near the HoJo -- was an eyesore for decades. And the motel going down Sunday is generic HoJo design.
But the disappearance of so many large buildings at once serves as one more reminder of the breadth and speed of the transformation under way in and around downtown Miami.
"This is a city that has razed its historical buildings in pretty rapid fashion before, but now it's just accelerating," said Miami historian Paul George. "There's never been a boom like this."
The HoJo, 1100 Biscayne, is the last old building remaining on the boulevard between the Freedom Tower and the Interstate 395 overpass, a strip once known as Gasoline Alley for its profusion of service stations, George said. Only one gas station survives.
"It's not like the HoJo is a historical building. But we have very little left of what the boulevard once looked liked," George said. "It's amazing."
Not every building goes out with a bang like the HoJo.
The Dupont takedown, for instance, took place over months, more a dismantling than a demolition.
But some developers like the speed and the impact of controlled explosions (no pun intended), the method used to bring down the historic Everglades Hotel earlier this year.
Big implosions can mean big publicity. Sometimes, the instant demolitions play bit parts in Hollywood productions.
The Mark's developer, CEO Jorge Perez of the Related Group, hoped the Sheraton could also go out "in style," downed by explosives and caught on film for a movie or TV show.
But concerns over possible damage to the seawall and the adjacent Miami Circle archaeological site put the kibosh on that, he said.
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