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Freedom Tower's Restoration Revives Immigration Icon

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The historic restoration of Miami's Freedom Tower marked the iconic structure's first-ever top-to-bottom exterior renovation.

Photo courtesy of Kaufman Lynn Construction
The restoration marked the first top-to-bottom exterior renovation of Miami's Freedom Tower.
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Originally completed in 1925, the 14-story tower became a community icon after the U.S. government's use of the building during the 1960s and 1970s to process, document and provide health-care services for Cuban immigrants. It was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 2008.

Miami Dade College—which owns and operates the building as an educational, cultural and community center—undertook the Freedom Tower's restoration in 2010. Kaufman Lynn Construction's mission as general contractor was to repair the structural damage that had occurred, with a focus on shoring up the structure against moisture intrusion.

The contract called for the conservation, repair, re-anchoring and selective replacement of Baroque Neoclassical cast stone ornaments and stucco, which had to be completed in adherence to the Dept. of the Interior's historic preservation standards.

Restoring the building's cupola required creating a weather-tight enclosure that maintained the building's original appearance, while at the same time meeting current codes for wind velocity.

After photographically documenting the dome, contractors removed the copper cladding, along with a cementitious layer and secondary framing, and then applied a fireproof coating to the remaining steel structure. Crews then built back the dome using metal decking material, two layers of plywood and a membrane roofing system approved by Miami Dade County.

Finally, workers installed new copper cladding that had been artificially aged to match the original dome's patina.

Adding to the challenge was the fact that the existing structure was in such poor condition that exterior scaffolding could not be tied into the building and instead required supplemental structural supports.

Construction crews also replaced more than 350 original windows with historic replica impact-resistant windows and restored the ballroom.


Key Players

Owner: Miami Dade College, Miami

Contractor: Kaufman Lynn Construction, Boca Raton, Fla.

Designer: Rodriguez & Quiroga Architects, Coral Gables, Fla.

Structural Engineer: DDA Engineers, Miami

Conservator: Aeon Preservation Services, Bladensburg, Md.

Restoration Firm: Contracting Specialists, Pompano Beach, Fla.

Submitted by Kaufman Lynn Construction


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