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City commissioners allow developer to raze historic building

Written by on Wednesday, May 8, 2024

But in the meantime, they try to find a way to move it elsewhere.

By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: May 8, 2024

Host: A developer will be allowed to tear down a historic building in downtown Sarasota – but at the same time, city commissioners are making arrangements to have it moved to another location. Ramon Lopez reports.

Ramon Lopez: It took a whopping three-and-half hours of discussion. But the fate of the historic McAlpin Home appears to be settled.

The Sarasota City Commission voted 3-2 on Monday to demolish it, or see it moved. And it set in motion a way to save it from the wrecking ball.

But the approved motion was still opposed by Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch and Commissioner Debbie Trice, as well as by members of the public at the hearing who also spoke out against demolition of it under any conditions.

At issue before the city commission was the rustic concrete block Burns Court home built by Sarasota founding father George McAlpin in 1912. It stands in the way of a major mixed-use commercial project.

The historic structure was given two ‘stays of execution’ by the Sarasota City Commission, last October and last month.

The McAlpin Home is located on the South side of Cross Street

After discussing how to balance growth with preservation, the commissioners moved to give the developer more time to rework their sketchy site plan, to either incorporate the McAlpin Home or find a suitable new location for the historic building.

The 1,800 square foot McAlpin Home is currently located at 1530 Cross Street. It is on a three-acre parcel owned by Orange Pineapple LLC. The developer appealed the Historic Preservation Board’s 4-0 vote in July 2023 to deny any application requesting demolition of the McAlpin House.

The preservation board would like to see the building moved, but there have been no takers. A scheme hatched to move the house about 100 feet west, to the former site of Nancy’s Barbeque at 301 South Pineapple Avenue, fell through.

Representatives of Orange Pineapple say the structure doesn’t fit into their design plan and needs to be moved or demolished. They said moving the home off-site is not practical for numerous reasons.

After much soul-searching, the city commissioners on Monday voted to finally approve a demolition permit for the building. But they also voted to allow the structure to be moved to a place willing to take it. Orange Pineapple agreed to pay $200,000 toward the moving costs. If the McAlpin Home ends up destroyed, the City of Sarasota gets the $200K for historic preservation purposes.

Commissioner Erik Arroyo provides the details of the approved motion.

Erik Arroyo: We approve the demolition, demolition permit 23AP30, except the applicant will not demolish the historic structure until the date the site plan approval is received for the property from the City of Sarasota. We also approve the move of the McAlpin house located at 1530 Cross Street to any city or county park, or private property with a willing recipient, with the applicant paying $200,000 of the moving costs, or in the event that the property has not moved, $200,000 to the city to be used for historic preservation purposes, and the incorporation of the concrete block into the demolished property, if the burden for the demolition has been met individually. This is my personal opinion, not speaking for anyone else. And anything we’re doing from here regarding the structures above and beyond.

RL: But Ahearn-Koch and Trice dissented. Both expressed reservations about the final moving costs exceeding the $200,000 offer. The vice mayor wanted the discussion continued at another meeting.

Jen Ahearn-Koch: I think that a lot of efforts and a lot of work has gone into this. I appreciate the work on the applicant’s side for working and trying to save this house. Unfortunately, I think issuing this demo permit takes away the incentive to preserve this house. I cannot support issuing a certificate of appropriateness for demolition for a historic structure in our city that has a story, that has significance, that has value, and that is 112 years old and is part of our history.

Debbie Trice: I still find the compromise lacking enough so that I cannot support it. My biggest problem is, $200,000 is peanuts. And I suspect the applicant would not be working so hard for this demolition if they weren’t benefiting considerably more than $200,000 by removing the McAlpin house from their property.

RL: Commissioner Kyle Battie said the vote was appropriate and will likely preserve an important part of the city’s history.

Kyle Battie: As you see, we’ve done everything, exhausted every possibility to try and preserve this house, and move it, keep it on the site, move it on the site, whatever, you know, everything that we possibly can. Then we’ve made every provision to try and make that happen. Even the applicant here has done everything. So I hope Mr. McAlpin is smiling right now, because — trust me — we’ve done everything we can to preserve this.

RL: This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.


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