Local Eyesores: the "Little Beirut" Building

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What's your town's most infamous local eyesore?

More than any other place I've lived, Florida seems to be a magnet for weirdness. Yesterday, I wrote about the rediscovery of an "aborted suburb" on the outskirts of my hometown, and today I have another story of suburban development gone strange: a building down the street so ugly it's long been known by Englewood locals as "Little Beirut."

They started building it when I was a kid, in the late 80s. Fancifully dubbed "Vizcaya on the Bay," it was to be two identical, glittering (by Englewood standards, at least) glass office buildings that were going to help kickstart the local economy by attracting businesses from larger towns nearby; they were to be so beautiful, the legend went, that no company could resist leasing office space there. And indeed, when the first building was finished, it was easily the most attractive commercial building in town. People started getting excited. Lease applications poured in. And construction on the second building began in earnest.

But then something happened. The concrete shell of the second building was erected, but then construction stopped -- and never started again. There were rumors of shady finances, deals gone wrong, legal troubles. Whatever the problem, it went on for so long that eventually people gave up hope that the second building would ever be finished, and what had been the hoped-for architectural pride of Englewood quickly became the town's most notorious eyesore -- as it has been for the past 19 years.beirutsidebyside.jpg
Naturally, it became a site of great interest to my friends and I as teenagers -- we'd run around its exposed concrete innards, checking out the newest graffiti tags and finding creepy/unsavory things like piles of used mattresses. Eventually, the town (wisely) erected a 10-foot fence around the dangerous building's perimeter (there was really nothing to keep an inattentive kid from tumbling down the empty elevator shaft or impaling himself on a nest of rusting re-bar), and all but the most dedicated vandals kept their distance. The county's been trying to demolish it for years, but miles of red tape have kept the moldering hulk standing. According to local paper, though, it looks like that's about to change, and "Little Beirut" will face a stranger ending than I ever could've imagined: it'll be sunk offshore to create a sorely-needed artificial reef. Where my friends and I once played, fish and crabs will hang out. Weird.

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What's your town's most infamous local eyesore?

January 2, 2008 - 2:54am
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