April 3

Benefits of Historic Designation in Sarasota

Architecture, tips and tricks

Historically Designated buildings in Sarasota County have many benefits. One is that you won't have to pay as much tax on improvements to the property. The City of Sarasota recognizes buildings that are part of the Sarasota School of Architecture and encourages their owners to apply for Historic Designation. Less than 100 of these modern homes are left in the city, and they are significant to the city's history.

The application for historic designation is entirely free. The cost of the plaque (identifying the building as historically designated) and its installation are underwritten by the city of Sarasota. Locally historically designated properties may not need to meet local Building Codes and Regulations, including the FEMA 50% rule and hurricane requirements. The Florida Building Code contains specific language about possible exemptions from state building code standards. Historic properties are relieved from zoning regulations through the variance process. Code standards for lot width, setbacks, and other typical zoning requirements are waived, provided the adjustments are not detrimental to the neighborhood.

The Economic Benefits

  • Supports cultural tourism
  • improves and stabilizes property values
  • Grants eligibility for the Sarasota County Ad Valorem Tax Exemption
  • There are no fees to make the application for a historic designation
  • May reduce the cost of construction through the reuse of existing structures
  • Building standards, including FIMA 50% rule and hurricane requirements, may not be mandatory.
Carlton Apartment Sarasota

Frances-Carlton Apartment, built in 1924.

The Cultural Benefits

  • Fosters civic pride
  • prevents urban decay
  • maintains the cultural and historical authenticity of neighborhoods
  • Commemorating the past
  • Preserving the texture, craftsmanship, and styles from certain eras
  • Creating pedestrian and visitor appeal
  • Enabling the community to identify specific buildings for
  • protection/preservation

Applying for historic designation in Sarasota

If you want to make your home Historical, you can apply. It will encourage the community to stay engaged with the history of Sarasota.

Old houses are often stronger than new houses. In the past, builders used lasting materials that remain distinctive of their time. Such materials include fixtures, floors, and trim. Human-made structures have a life cycle, and many eras understood this by using lasting materials. Mid-century Modern homes in Sarasota were built with concrete blocks and terrazzo floors, these materials take centuries to deteriorate. This increases each structure’s property value and life cycle.

Lido Shores is a historic district with a collection of modern homes in Sarasota. People who live there work together for the care of their buildings. This cohesiveness is a success that stabilizes neighborhoods. Through their charters and guidelines, historic districts control demolition, limit inappropriate fill and maintain individual properties’ physical integrity. The overlying result is that properties within the historic districts tend to appreciate. Historic districts typically have higher owner occupancy rates and longer ownership durations, designation insulates these properties from adverse real estate market swings.

The commitment of home and business owners to occupy and maintain older structures creates a ripple effect throughout Sarasota. Historic landmarks and districts that are aesthetically cohesive and well-promoted. Organizations like Architecture Sarasota also offer significant attractions such as MOD Weekend - a weekend event celebrating modern homes associated with the Sarasota School of Architecture. This, in turn, encourages business recruitment, job creation, and local shopping.

Every year, there are special events and tours in Lido Shores to learn about its history. Many fancy modern homes are found there, some are linked to The Sarasota School of Architecture. Some examples are the Hiss House, The Umbrella, and Harkvey House.

What can be designated?

All structures 50 years or older can apply for local and national designation. Any structure associated with the Sarasota School of Architecture is encouraged to apply for a designation. All owners must consent to the regional designation application. There is no cost to apply, and the city picks up the cost of the Designation Report if the Historic and Architectural Review Board decides to move forward with the designation process.

  •  If something wants to be recognized as a part of Sarasota's history, structures must meet the following criteria:
  • Is significant in Sarasota’s history, architecture, archaeology, and culture.
  • Associated with the Sarasota School of Architecture movement.
  • Integrity for the location, design, materials, and craftsmanship.
  • Meets one or more of the following designation criteria:
  • Associated with events that have made significant contributions to our history.
  • Associated with the lives of persons significant in our past.
  • Embodies the characteristics of a distinctive architectural style, construction style, or period; or was built by a prominent designer/builder.
  • Is likely to yield historical or pre-historical information.
  • Designated on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Is related or is part of a landscape, park, environmental, or other distinctive feature tied to a historical, cultural, or architectural motif; or has easily identifiable visual features and contributes to the distinctive quality of the neighborhood or the city.

See City Code, Sec. IV-802 – Local Historic Designation standards for additional information on the designation process and criteria.

Responsibilities Associated with Historic Designations

After a building has been historically designated, an application for the building permits which affect the structure’s exterior or the site will be referred by the Building Department to the Planning Department and the Historic Preservation Board for issuing a Certificate of Appropriateness [COA]. Please refer to the Zoning Code for a complete description of this process. The purpose of the COA process is to ensure responsible stewardship and preservation of the integrity of structures on the local historic register.

Carlton Apartment 1924

The Frances - Carlton Apartment was built in 1924.

Carlton Apartment Sarasota

Located in the heart of Downtown Sarasota. 

Research Report for Local Historic Designation 

Properties nominated for local historic designation in the City of Sarasota require a thorough research report documenting the site’s history, the structure, and essential facts about the structure. Reports should outline the historic value of the neighborhood and the people who lived in the building. If the building's history is important for the city, the report should explain why. Old newspaper articles, pictures, and information about people who used to live or work there can help with the report.

Copies of newspaper articles, obituaries, and historic photographs can help document a structure’s history. The architectural section of the report should include a statement of the structure’s architectural style and justification for a Historic Designation. An architectural description of the structure is required beginning with a summary paragraph that creates a rough “sketch” of the building and its site, followed by a more detailed description. In the detailed description portion, please provide a complete description of the building in a logical sequence. Start from the ground up or describe each building elevation separately.

Research a Structures Historic Value

If you want to learn more about a building's features, you can ask for help from Ben Nathan and Staff at Sarasota County Historical Department. You can check the Sarasota County Public Library System for information. Ben Nathan and consultants with the History and Preservation Coalition of Sarasota County are available to help with the local historic designation application packet. Florida maintains a list of historically significant structures called the Florida Master Site File. It contains information about the age of buildings within the City of Sarasota. Visit Sarasota’s website for the Florida Master Site File Records. There's also a national list of important buildings outside the city.

Visit Sarasota’s website for more information about the City’s Historic Preservation Program. You can also contact Ben Nathan at (941) 315-6772 or Senior Planner Clifford Smith at (941) 263-6585.

The Designation Process

1. Pre-Application Meeting: The city encourages applicants to attend a pre-application meeting with the Planning and Development Division staff to review the process and answer any questions. To request a pre-application meeting, please call Dr. Clifford Smith, Senior Planner, of the Planning and Development Division at (941) 954-4195.

2. Application for Designation: The Historic Preservation Board normally meets on the second Tuesday of every month at 3:00 pm. You can see the 2023 agenda. To be on a specific agenda, you must fill out an application and give all the necessary papers to the City Auditor and Clerk's office. Your application won't be accepted until it's complete and the Planning and Development Division approves it.

3. Technical Review: Planning and Development Division staff will review the application outlined in Section VI-802 of the Land Development Regulations and may request additional information from the applicant. Additional information that's requested must be resubmitted.

4. Historic Preservation Board Action: After consideration of the application -outlined in Section VI-802 of the Land Development Regulations- the Historic Preservation Board votes to recommend in favor of the proposed designation, and the Board’s action will be considered by the City Commission. If the Board votes against the proposed designation, the decision of the Board in this regard will be final.

5. City Commission Action: After the recommendation of the Historic Preservation Board, a designation ordinance is prepared and scheduled for a public hearing before the City Commission. A public hearing will be held to consider the adoption of the proposed ordinance, followed by City Commission action on the proposed ordinance.

About the author 

Benjamin Nathan PA

Ben started with the distinct vision of bringing together clients with a shared appreciation for architectural homes. He runs an idea-based sales team that strives to innovate communication strategies that challenge the mass market approach. Follow Ben on social media.

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