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March 24, 2014

Of Graves concern: ex Miss Sweden's plans to redo legendary architect's signature SoBe building brings bitter battle to 1500 Ocean Dr.




A former Miss Sweden is trying to get the go-ahead to redecorate three areas of the building at 1500 Ocean Drive, otherwise known as The Michael Graves Building, and according to our sources, the renowned architect is livid. "He's very unhappy," says our source. "It is his signature building!"

Designed in 1993, the building is one of Graves' most famous. So much so that he has sent the building's residents a letter expressing his unhappiness. In it, he writes, "I’m not sure any of you know, but I have been in practice now for fifty years, and this is the first time something like what is happening at 1500 Ocean Drive has occurred in my professional life. . . .  I am quite frankly, devastated by all of this, but don’t know what I can do."

That former beauty queen, Sofia Joelsson, is the owner of SoJo Design, a 13-year-old interior design business. We asked her to chime in on the situation, but so far she remains silent. As of a March 13 vote, at least 49 residents voted against Joelsson while around 48 voted for her plans. 

According to a source at the building who asked to remain anonymous, "It's a case, in my opinion, of people with too much money and too little taste." Taste or no taste, it's also a tough sell for famous lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a resident at the building. "He is also against this redecoration travesty."

Rumor has it he even threatens to sue. Especially after a volatile meeting they had last week when Kevin A. Fox, the husband of board president Camille Polimeni, allegedly told Dershowitz to shut up.

Dershowitz's wife Carolynn Ann Cohen sent a letter to residents saying, "It is worth taking more time to do research on the impact of destroying something – the Michael Graves signature - that many of us think adds value to the building.  Many of us believe that the SOJO design will make 1500 an unsuccessful imitation of what is already available in the area - apartment buildings with high ceilings and grand lobbies and a slicker, hotel style. Our building was not made for this aesthetic and imposing it will look like an unsuccessful hybrid that will not compete with these higher priced buildings. Wealthy people who want that aesthetic will chose the buildings intended for that look.  We will be considered a second best imitation that people with less money can afford.  It will not increase the value of our building, but lower it. We will have destroyed a classic Michael Graves building that makes us special.  Instead, we will get an imitation of a current popular trend that may change again in five years. We will not be able to recover what we had." 

"Good luck with the repercussions," laughs the spy, adding "Dershowitz gets even." Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here's the entire letter Graves wrote to the building's residents.


1332366456-michael-graves-438x500Sent electronically to the Residents of 1500 Ocean Drive


March 18, 2014


Dear Residents of 1500 Ocean Drive,


I’m not sure any of you know, but I have been in practice now for fifty years, and this is the first time something like what is happening at 1500 Ocean Drive has occurred in my professional life.  So, I’m new to all this and for that I am sorry.    I should tell you all that there is a different way architects approach problems like this than decorators and designers do.  Architects have a full knowledge about what things cost and the rules that govern certain changes.  For instance, the new covering that is proposed (if I am reading the SOJO drawings right) for the pool area is raised up from the present grade and therefore is not ADA compliant (ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act), in other words, this change is not lawful.  I looked at the proposed changes to the floor plan of the lobby and I don’t know whether you are all aware, but it is massive.  While I was a resident at 1500 Ocean Drive, nobody ever told me that they were dissatisfied with the way the lobby functioned, let alone its appearance. Therefore, I simply don’t understand why those changes were made.  It appears that there is an epoxy coating proposed for the floor finish in the porte-cochère, this too raises the height to a point where it will  not  be  ADA  compliant.    These  were  always  our  stumbling  blocks  in  former  conversations regarding the material in the porte-cochère.  The designers have made an addition of natural stone to one side of the porte-cochère with a large logo on its face.  This is the only place that stone would be used in the building and therefore strikes me as an anomaly and not in character with the rest of the building.  I feel the same way about the tiles that are used on the island in the porte-cochère, the only adjective that comes to mind for these changes is “glitzy”.   There are natural stones used as new flooring in the island – which will be very unwelcoming in regards to certain shoe types.  With regard to the lobby, do you all realize that upon entering the axis leads you directly to the assistant manager’s office, which has a glass façade? It seemed to me the original location for the reception area, where the assistant manager now is, is much preferred.

There was a mention of a $50,000 fee in a letter to me, I don’t know where this number came from as I gave my services pro bono.  My services had to do with the ocean room, the recovering of the furniture and drawings for the elevator cabs.  I am quite frankly, devastated by all of this, but don’t know what I can do.  It’s so strange to me to have gone through the reupholstering of the furniture throughout the public spaces and the installation of the gaming tables in the ocean room, for somebody to come along and say, “Let’s do it again”.  I am sure you are aware of the enormous cost to each of you.  I suspect, if a contractor gave you a preliminary bid, it would exceed the number you are now using.   Even the current number to me, would kill the deal for what you are getting.  Would it be more reasonable for you to take smaller steps in all of this and perhaps, do the porte-cochère first and see how that turns out, instead of the complete upheaval that would be caused by the changes to the lobby, etc. as currently proposed.  I would propose also that you make a distinction between material upgrades such as the resurfacing of the porte-cochere and what has been called “freshening”.  Freshening, I suspect is a euphemism for redesign.   That has nothing to do with material changes, but individual esthetics.

This is hard for me to say, but I noticed that the bottled water that’s given out to residents has on its logo, “The Michael Graves Building”, I was quite surprised to see that , but I’m sorry to say that it will no longer be true if the proposed changes are implemented.   There are elements of design throughout the proposal where I simply don’t understand the rationale.  For instance, there are two round columns in the lobby with a Venetian plaster finish I have always thought were quite beautiful, but the new scheme makes the round columns square.  For what reason would a designer do that? It is simply somebody’s taste, and perhaps changes for changes sake to build up the cost.

I have a fantasy that if you go ahead with all that is proposed, that in the next ten or twenty years the next well-meaning board will come along and put Humpty Dumpty back together again.  If I were still a tenant I would insist on bringing the contractor into the mix at this point to get a preliminary bid on the designs that have been proposed, as I think you will all be quite surprised, and I would hate for you all to get this bill after the renovation and have no idea what you are getting into now.  I would give this to more than one contractor as I don’t think it should be anybody that is proposed by SOJO, there is too much conflict of interest possible for that to take place.  The contractor should be made to bid on what would be ADA compliant, rather than just putting a surface on top of what’s there already with a step.

Finally, I read in one of your letters that SOJO was in contact with me relative to what they were doing. I should tell you that nobody from that firm ever talked to me.  I stand ready to help in any way I can and if there are any further questions you need answered, don’t hesitate to call me.

All my best,

Michael Graves


Update: Residents on the other side of the battle--those who wish to see the interior design spruced up--have chimed in loudly, explaining that "There are a multitude of buildings in Miami Beach, NY and other parts of the world whose structures are designed by first class world renowned architects, some even greater than Mr. Graves, and its common areas are designed by qualified INTERIOR DESIGNERS.  They seem to know the difference between the two disciplines." The battle, it seems, is over interior aesthetics. Graves, whose chairs adorn a lobby that some say is reminiscent of "an old age home," stands firm on his original decor. What follows is the first letter he sent to residents in which he expresses his ire at any interior tweaking:

February 6, 2014
Residents of 1500 Ocean Drive
1500 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
Dear Residents of 1500 Ocean Drive,
I have been sent copies of the proposed changes and I can’t imagine a worse fate for the building. I would have to characterize them (one in particular) as somewhere between a brothel and Las Vegas. I had always assumed from talking to Ines that the prices were elevated in the building because of my involvement; however the new board seems to think the opposite. From what I can tell the proposals have been made by decorators, not architects and designers like these have no clue as to the concept of domesticity. I am quite frankly devastated by all of this, but don’t know what I can do. It’s so strange to me to have gone through the reupholstering of the furniture and the installation of the gaming tables in the ocean room, for somebody to come along and say, “Let’s do it again”. Are the residents aware of the enormous cost to each of them, which would be the result of any of these schemes? The old board that I worked with was quite frugal, as they didn’t do anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary for fear of the costs.
It really comes down to a question of taste; the glitz that they might have seen in a hotel versus the domestic character that we aimed for. If they are successful in making these renovations, I am afraid not only will the character of the spaces change so dramatically, but I think the character of the inhabitants will over time reflect the glitziness of the renovation.
If there is anything that you can think of that I can do to help the situation, please let me know.
All my best,
Michael Graves

And lastly, as we leave the battle to the building, the renovation proposal from the aforementioned SoJo:

Download 1500OceanDriveProposal_finallo


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It's the 21st century

Quoted from a recent visitor to 1500;
"Regardless of its architectural pedigree, this building looks horribly dated, and its not even that old. Those lobby shots look like an institutional waiting room...an Assisted Living Facility or hospital...or maybe an airport Marriott somewhere desperately needing renovation. I get that it hurts Mr. Graves feelings that his design is no longer appreciated, but come on...this is awful...times have changed and design has too."


If anything lowers property values, it will be the invective spewed by so many people on this blog. I'm looking in from the outside and most of you don't appear to be very good neighbors and that outweighs the great location of the building as well as the beauty of the interior design.

Posted by: Mary


Graves speaking to the press comes off as prompted. His self-described remark of not of being able to afford living at 1500 is in sharp contrast with his merchandise deals (Target & JCPenney) and collected licensing fees (Stryker).

I nearly fell off my chair when Graves expressed his 1500 visionary concept as “reupholstering of the furniture and the installation of the gaming tables”. A disconnect is taking place that stems from an ungracious “star-chitect” attitude. More simply put: Graves is difficult to work with. There someone said it. He would not provide renderings or an overall scope of his plans and for 15 years residents have been beholden to him as well as at odds with him.

Sofia Joelsson's plan and drawings are presented in a professional manner. There’s no guesswork or going on faith. Can alterations be discussed? Yes. With SoJo Designs you are working as a team, not a legendary demigod. I’m tired of being held hostage by Graves. There’s no sitting down with him instead it’s a dictation of his terms.

WTF are you high?

Carolyn Cohen (Dershowitz's wife) is quoted in the article as saying: "Wealthy people who want that aesthetic will chose the buildings intended for that look. We will be considered a second best imitation that people with less money can afford"
So I guess you want to attract less wealthy people to the building? Just sounds plain stupid to me!

Miami Maverack

"Why can't we all just get along"
C'mon folks, what's wrong with a LITTLE updating ?
Does it really have to be an ALL or NOTHING proposal ?
Can we keep the Graves furnishings and just rearrange things a bit ? Can we ask Graves for a professional makeover and compare it with Sofia's makeover ? Could these two, dare I say , work together on this ?
Everyone bought this building's set up knowing this IS the MICHAEL GRAVES BUILDING. While he has a bit of a design dictatorship mentality, most of us paid the big bucks, in part, because of his design.
My only dislike is the FAT BLOB MURAL. Can we at least get some Michael Graves art work ? The guy has tons of great color paintings that would look great.
All we are saying . . . . is give Graves a chance (sung to Give Peace a Chance mantra song).

Are you serious?

Hey Maverick,
1. Why all or nothing? Because it ALL looks like sh*t!
2. The new design plan already incorporates MG's chairs
3. You really expect Sojo to work with MG after he compared her work to a brothel? You already said he has a bit of a design "dictatorship mentality".
3. And lastly, WTF is a fat blob mural? Call it what it is: Fat nipple-less bathing ladies that are a poor Botero imitation.

Stop Drinking the Graves Kool Aide

Graves had 15 years to provide a makeover for the building. Tens of thousands of dollars were spent on proposals that were rejected by all previous boards. When he finally got a chance to do the lobby he sold the building a bunch of overpriced Romper Room chairs!
He finally got a chance and failed miserably. By the way, last time I checked Graces was no longer a resident of 1500, so why does he even get a vote?


@MAVERACK: I and most us did NOT buy in the building because of MG. We bought here because of price and location just like you did. If this building was located on the bay or at 50th street or cost way more you would not have bought here either!

Fool Nomore

Graves art work?? Kidding right? Our lobby and Porte Cochere already have Graves artwork in the form of Indian Reservation huts in soothing pastel tones...the lobby needs a LOOK, not hodge lodge pieces of slippery chairs conveniently sold years ago to a bunch of fools pretending to be board members pretending to know how to manage money "frugally"....to sum it up, Graves was provided a chance many many times...but as a once past president said at a VIDEOTAPED 1500 board meeting 2 year ago "Michael Graves doesn't do renderings"....Think that sentence says it all ...why go to the trouble of actually doing renderings when you can just sell 42 chairs in the same style for $6500 a piece to a bunch of fools...tea anyone?

Are you sittin yet?

Kumbaya everyone...lets give Graves another chance cuz we really need more of his overstuffed leather chairs in the elevators and in the pool area. Ok, done, makeover complete...and hey, let's slap on a mural or two in clashing colors...now, where should we sit?

Can we make a deal?

One request: The 1500 catering kitchen hasn't been updated with a chair as yet...but maybe we can wait another decade or so..in the meantime, while we sing Kumbaya, may we dare ask Michael Graves if he would grace our kitchen with just one of his famous signature Hitler teapots (do they come in soothing pastel tones too? ) and if not too much to ask, maybe one medium sized signature colander as well (if they come in soothing pastel tones, would be great as well, otherwise whatever you've got in the warehouse will do just fine). And don't worry, we will tell everyone you were generous enough to do the kitchen design upgrade for 1500 PRO BONO . It's a win -win for everyone!

Musical Chairs Anyone?

Instead of our slogan being "1500 Ocean Drive...Beyond Luxury", it should be "1500 Ocean Drive...Are you sitting down?"

stick to making teapots

Michael Graves. Your comment in your letter about stones OUTSIDE of the building not being in character with the rest of the building is ridiculous. Also, venetian plaster??? Really???

stick to making teapots

Michael Graves. Your comment in your letter about stone outside of the building not being in character with the rest of the building is ridiculous. Also, venetian plaster??? Really???

Musical Chairs Anyone?

Instead of our slogan being "1500 Ocean Drive...Beyond Luxury", it should be "1500 Ocean Drive...Are You Sitting Down?"

Remember Ron and Nicole

A member of OJ Simpson's dream team retains Kendall Coffey to sue his neighbors and condo board to stop a interior renovation vote. When his fellow residents note that the former US attorney had to resign in disgrace, we learn are told Coffey is so incensed, he has agreed to take this case for no charge.
Vindictive, immoral, unprincipled, depraved and foul. Birds of a feather...


For all of you the Michael Graves haters wo are trashing the name of one of the greatest archiects and for the board of directors who elected not to invite Michael Graves to participate in the bidding for the proposed renovation, just read your advertising brochure. It seems that the main selling point of the building is Michael Graves name.

Here is a "copy & paste" clip from the first page of your brochure:

"1500 Ocean Drive is a comfortable, mid-sized building designed by world-renown architect, Michael Graves. It is the only signature residential building that graces the beach in this internationally renowned neighborhood called South Beach. Browse around our website and you will see why our residents consider themselves privileged to call 1500 Ocean Drive home.

Take the photo tour of our signature Michael Graves designed building and interior design - just click on any of the photos on this page for a larger version."

Grave matter indeed!

Clarify please … Dershowitz has brought a lawyer into a condo matter best handled by our own Board? What the hell is this going to cost residents? How does involving litigation improve our property values?

Shame on Dershowitz and his wife for bringing a private matter public! Then they turn their friends to take on a case.

Will the lawyers be deposing past board presidents such as Fiorentino and New Jersey resident Harold Rosenbaum? At least some former board presidents knew when to hightail it out there when it became a question of fiscal responsibility. It’s time to stop this – no side should ‘lawyer up’.


Hey Alex, no one is demolishing the building! Get real and stop with the tired arguments. Does the White House renovate ? And no, the main selling point is not Graves, its our low prices and amazing location. And by the way, why has it taken graves 15 years to complete the building? Fact is, your tired arguments don't hold up to scrutiny.


Hey Alex, maybe his lovely and so professional egotistical letter bashing other professional's work should be attached to that brochure too.

Denise Brown

Grave matter indeed. According to Dershowitz, and, this statement is on tape: " lawyers don't lie." After the uproarious laughter to his exclamation finally subsided, he added, "not to other lawyers".
And to Harold Rosenbaum the past president and his scafflow wife: get ready for an internal audit of the past ten years.

Miami Maverack

Holy Smokes - the multi talented , multi named ghost writer has struck MULTIple times. Ease on down, you may have to double up on the blood pressure meds. That or down a few hits of the hard stuff. You have been staring at one too many BUBBA BABE MURALS. haha !

If our new babe designer can't work with Michael Graves over a silly comment, then let's find a designer in the area that will work with the architect and see what THEY have to offer. If Gravesy boy won't work with anyone here then he has nothing to offer.


I think it would be worth entertaining at least one other option that would include Graves.


Miami Mav, nobody wants graves except maybe 5 people. The others out of that 38, DONT WANT TO SPEND ANY MONEY.

No reason to give graves anything, the MAJORITY OF OWNERS DO NOT WANT HIM. PERIOD.

Stop insisting like a sore loser. Deal with it and move on or sell, but dont impose a minority view over the majority, this is still the USA and thats how it works in this country!


To label Sophia a "babe" pretty much illustrates the base morality of the group behind this charge. Sounds like gender based harassment and misogyny. FOUL.

Miami Maverack

OK , so we get rid of Michael Graves. We only look at one designer ? No one else ? What is there, some kind of pay off or is there some relationship some key player on the board has with SOJO ?
Just because I want to see the BLUBBER wall MURAL gone, doesn't mean we should not shop around. The all or nothing mentality of this so-called majority is as dictator like as if Michael Graves were to say "it's my way or no way".
Graves people are willing to work with architects and designers worldwide. Graves himself may have gotten a bit possessive while he was living here but the tides turn.
It's time to lay out the budget numbers for a makeover and give multiple players an opportunity to present including Michael Graves &/or designers who will or won't include Michael Graves in their plan.



Hey Jeff,
Who are the other "professionals"?

Another case of Flax not facts

Hey Maverick! The one designer was chosen from a resident vote after a design committee chose three out of 12 designers that were interviewed! All owners and design committee members got a chance to recommend designers to be interviewed! Get the facts straight. SoJo was chosen fair and square!


Who are the "professionals" Alex? Certainly not MG

AKA Troublemaker

www.merriam-webster.com › dictionary
noun \ˈmav-rik, ˈma-və-\. : a person who refuses to follow the customs or rules of a group.

Miami Maverack

I am not so sure it's such a fair and square deal when you simply interview a few designers who did not even connect with the building's originator and then pick only one to present a rendition. While Graves may appear a tad dictatorial he did have many valid points regarding compliance and style. His vast experience and knowledge is certainly worth considering in changing what is widely known as "The Michael Graves Building".
At least get a Michael Graves perspective and a rendering of things that the majority-in-power would like from Michael Graves. If Graves is really unwilling to provide a rendering - the debate is over. It does not have to be ALL or NOTHING , or exclusive SOJO or exclusive GRAVES. Couldn't these two work together to some degree ?
SOJO was promoting one idea of KEEPING the NAKED FAT LADY MURALS - even considering that is a strike against SOJO. Talk about BROTHEL ART.

Its a Noun, too

Hey Miami Maverick: We'll assume that was the Ambien talking at 3:24.
Pervert the truth much?

You don't know shit

Maverack get your facts straight! SoJo and all three final choice designers were given criteria to follow by the board and were all told to keep the naked fat ladies. Also SoJo did connect with the buildings architect! Did you not see the first page of her presentation that talk all about Michael Graves?


All you haters need to go and live in a single family house! Stop acting like children. You all need a good spanking and a time out!

Just Saying

Let me get this straight, you love Michael Graves but hate the blobs or the fat ladies or whatever you want to call them, but didn't Michael put that mural on the wall to begin with? Also, take a close look at the rug by that same mural and tell my what you see(underneath the sofas. Looks like a bunch of phallic symbols. Hmmm let's see.. naked ladies and penises a la Michael Graves - looks like HE is the one who has brothel on his mind, not SoJo.

Marjorie and David Mishkin

The mural was placed on the wall by the developer dba Constructa, which is based in Paris. The developer still controlled the Board at the time.

Attack of the Blobs

Yes David you are correct and Michael wanted
to paint them over in the same design as the rug using college students to paint by numbers.

He bit a stripper, really???!!!!


Chutzpah:A Yiddish word meaning not above twisting the words of the law to win at all costs, even in a harmful way.

Time to move onto 2014

So what you are saying David is Michael Graves had no say when the building was under construction? So even the developer didn't consult with Michael Graves?

Ouch, that hurt Dude :-((

Meet your worthy opponent KENDALLCOFFEYhttp://miamiherald.typepad.com/changing_channels/2008/03/cnn-finds-a-rea.html
His letter to us included the words "conduct", "integrity", "suppression", "the law", and "intimidation". Maybe our neighbor, The Bombastic Ms. Bushkin, didn't know that in his own words "this is not survivable".
But, that's the perverted justice thingy.



Miami Maverack

Well, look at that. The BLOB BABE MURAL was NOT a Michael Graves choice after all. The TRUTH comes out. His hand was forced. THIS IS THE KIND OF STUFF THAT OCCURS WHEN MICHAEL GRAVES is NOT in the picture !! BROTHEL CASINO STYLE !!
That's it - THE BOARD MUST NOT allow the brothel casino design to scar the future of this building.

VOTE NO - to casino glitz
VOTE NO - to brothel design

VOTE YES - to building tradition
VOTE YES - to minimalist quality design


For the "Chairman" !!

There is not real “majority” here. During the last vote less than 50% of the owners voted in favor of the project.

The main issue in this debate is not whether the lobby needs to be renovated or not, but it is rather a debate for the selection of the renovation project proposed by SOJO,

Now, in an effort to gain the necessary votes for the project to go on, some of the "condo board commandos" (as very well named by Frank), and some of their relatives, have adopted a scare tactic by intimidating, harassing and threatening opposing owners.

Anyone who witnessed their actions and overheard their vulgarity during last Friday’s party will definitely agree that their behavior is not something expected by the1500 Ocean Drive board of directors. As a matter of fact such behavior would not be expected even by the board of directors of any low income housing project in downtown Opa Locka. …. (Sorry Mayor).

The behavior of some of the board of directors against anyone opposed to this renovation project triggers the question: … is it only lack of class and lack of aesthetic knowledge alone?....or there is something else to. Perhaps the fear of losing some expected commission or some kind of other perks.


Miami Maverack

So the truth comes out. . . MICHAEL GRAVES was not behind the BROTHOL BUBBA BABES mural after all.
That's it.
Get rid of the BROTHOL BUBBA BABES mural and call it a day. The SOJO casino glitz is not needed.
Have SOJO paint over the mural and pop some pictures of black & white buildings mounted , give her 10K , and call it a day.
That beats cranking 275K into a major overall that will cause turmoil for years.

Get Your Math Straight

Hey Alex
You fail to understand that only 98 out of 114 residents voted to begin with, which means the other 16 don't care to vote. Therefore 58 voted for a designer and 38 voted no. Sounds more like 60% voted for a designer.
As for the behavior you are referring to Friday night. Buy some glasses. It did not involve Board members. It involved the low class thugs who started the campaign against the renovation.
And as for the rest of your comment. Well, that just plain ludicrous.


Perhaps you need to "get your math straight" The last count of the votes in favor of the SOJO project were 48. In USA 48 is still not the majority of of the 114 owners.

Get Your Math Straight

Hey Math Genius!

It was 97 that voted (I stand corrected with the 98)

38 Neither (1 write in for Michael Graves)
1-Blank proxy
17-Don't care- They did not vote

Looks like SoJo got the majority to me.

Get Your Math Straight

And in the USA the President is not picked by the majority of residents eligible to vote. It's done by the majority of votes CAST!! You cannot force people top vote!

 Vulgar Vamping Vixen


Carolyn Cohen and Alan Dershowitz: What Divine Decor! It reflects your sensibilities!
Carolyn, Would you consider working on some renderings for 1500?
In the spirit of Kendall Coffey would please not charge your neighbors?

Get Your Math Straight

Oh and Alex. Its the opposing owners you are talking about that are the ones threatening and bullying the residents who want to vote yes. Threatening law suits, sending out dozens of e mails to the residents full of lies, starting fights at cocktail parties, verbally abusing residents who don't agree... I can go on an on about the bullying.

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