Developers Find Resistance to Tearing Down Capone House

One opponent doesn't see how a McMansion is an improvement
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2021 5:15 PM CDT
Developers Find Resistance to Tearing Down Capone House
The gatehouse entrance of the waterfront mansion once owned by gangster Al Capone in Miami Beach, Fla., is shown in 2015.   (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Some of the arguments about whether to tear down the old Capone place in Palm Island, Florida, sound like they could have been part of a debate about a hit a century ago in Chicago. "It's not worthy of being saved because it's lived its life," said Todd Glaser, a developer and co-owner. He and his business partner plan to either find someone who wants to live like a mob boss and sell the house as is for $16.9 million, or replace it, the New York Times reports. The latter plan calls for a modern house with eight bedrooms and bathrooms, a sauna, and a spa. The asking price would be about $45 million; the developers paid $10.75 million. Al Capone acquired the house west of Miami Beach in 1928 for $40,000.

The teardown proposal has drawn opposition that Glaser likens to the arguments over removing Confederate statues. Capone "wasn't a saint by any means,” said Daniel Ciraldo of the nonprofit Miami Design Preservation League. "But, at the same time, we think his home is a part of the history of our city: the good, the bad and the ugly. And we don't think it should be torn down and replaced with a McMansion." The gangster died of cardiac arrest in a guest room in 1947; his widow sold the waterfront house in 1952, and it's changed hands several times since. The mansion's past notorious ownership is "not something to celebrate, in my eyes," Glaser said.

There are other reasons to tear the house down. It's three feet below sea level and has flood damage. "The house is a piece of crap," Glaser told the Miami Herald. "It's a disgrace to Miami Beach." He said he's sent letters to all 265 Palm Island residents asking their opinion and has found support for the teardown. Some owners of the gated island's expensive houses don't appreciate the sightseers the mansion attracts. Glaser has experience with problematic properties; he tore down a house that belonged to Jeffrey Epstein. Ciraldo sees the debate as evidence of Capone's legacy. "I think it’s pretty clear that Al Capone had an impact that is still felt to this day," he said. (More Al Capone stories.)

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