AIRPORT COMMUNITY TO ASK WEST PALM FOR HISTORIC DESIGNATION

Neighborhood preservation vs. airport expansion


Residents of the Vedado neighborhood in the shadows of Palm Beach International Airport will ask city commissioners today to declare their community historic in hopes the designation will prevent airport expansion plans from gobbling up their homes.

The neighborhood, just north of Southern Boulevard and west of Parker Avenue, sits next to the 90-acre airport buyout zone, where hundreds of homes in the former Hillcrest community were demolished or relocated in the late 1980s because of airport noise.

Vedado residents fear their neighborhood could meet the same fate if federal aviation officials approve plans to extend the airport's shortest runway to accommodate commercial jets.

The Federal Aviation Administration began a three-year environmental study of the runway plan in February. As part of the study, FAA officials are required to consider the effects the runway project will have on nearby historic sites.

Aviation officials have said they won't know how the extension will affect the neighborhood, or whether more homes could be bought, until a draft version of the study is completed next year.

Jose Rodriguez, president of the Vedado neighborhood association, could not be reached for comment Monday. But Mayor Lois Frankel, who has opposed the extension, said the designation could help leaders fight the project.

"We hope that it adds to our argument that to expand, to continue to really erode the territory around the airport, is in a sense eroding the fabric of our city," Frankel said.

If the city commission approves the proposal, the neighborhood would be designated as a historic district on the city's register of historic places. The move is the first step toward getting federal historic protection.

The neighborhood was platted in 1924, when the developers touted it as the city's "first suburban neighborhood.''

In order to receive the city designation, houses must be 50 years or older. A city analysis found that roughly 80 percent of the neighborhood's 153 homes qualify for the designation. Architectural styles in the neighborhood include ranch, Mediterranean revival, vernacular, contemporary, Monterey and split level.

In recent years, the neighborhood has gone through a renaissance. Many homes have been restored.

The neighborhood applied for the historic designation in July, about four months after the FAA had a public workshop on the proposed extension as part of its study.

The city's historic preservation board endorsed the designation in August.

If the commission gives designation its initial approval, a final public hearing will take place Oct. 22.

~jennifer_sorentrue@pbpost.com

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