Historic Preservation: Miami's Vagabond Motel

Built in 1953, at a time when Biscayne Boulevard was a hot spot for families vacationing in South Florida, the Vagabond Motel is undergoing a complete renovation. And it's happening just in time for Art Basel Miami Beach.

Photo by: Robert Nickelsberg/Hulton Archive/Getty Images The 1950s-era Vagabond Motel is being renovated to preserve its MiMo style. Developer Avra Jain is in the midst of restoring the swimming pool’s original mermaid and dolphin tile mosaics as well as the kitschy neon sign shown in this photo.  

Embodying the characteristics of the MiMo (Miami Modern) style, developer and preservationist Avra Jain is restoring the structure to its festive period glory and is planning to transform it into a hip boutique for both locals and tourists. 

According to Miami Urbanist, Jain's team is working overtime to complete the project in time for Art Basel, one of the most anticipated events of the year in South Florida. 

The historic gem was designed by B. Robert Swartburg, architect of the Delano Hotel and the Bass Museum in Miami Beach. Like many motels along the Boulevard, the Vagabond’s appearance deteriorated during the downturn of the 1970s and 1980s, when that part of Miami became a hotbed for crime and drugs.

Design advocates hail the Vagabond as a prime example of 1950s and 1960s MiMo architectural design with characteristics like an open-air plan, jalousie windows, geometric designs, overhanging roof lines, stone facing, and sculptural elements depicting marine life and other nautical themes. 

Although the newly renovated boutique hotel won't be open to guests until 2014, it will have rooms ready for art exhibitions and star-studded parties for Art Basel in December. And in case you're interested, there's a prestigious lineup of galleries showing at this year's festival, including several Florida galleries.

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