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McAlpin House gets another lease on life

Written by on Thursday, April 4, 2024

City commissioners kick decision on its destruction down the road.

By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: Apr. 3, 2024

Host: Sarasota City Commissioners again discussed a developer’s request to tear down a historical building. Ramon Lopez reports.

Ramon Lopez: The rustic block Burns Court home built by Sarasota founding father George McAlpin in 1912 remains targeted for demolition. This, to make room for a major mixed-use commercial project. But the historic structure on Monday was given yet another ‘stay of execution’ by the Sarasota City Commission, saving it from destruction through at least May 2024. The first reprieve was made by the commission last October.

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 House, or find a suitable new location for the historic building. One such site could be in Newtown, suggests Commissioner Kyle Battie.

The 1,800 square foot McAlpin House is currently located at 1530 Cross Street. It was designated a historic structure in 1984. But it is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It is on a three-acre parcel owned by Orange Pineapple LLC. The developer is appealing the Historic Preservation Board’s four to zero 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 Barbecue at 301 South Pineapple Avenue fell through.

The McAlpin House is in the middle of the Cross Street block, which a developer wants the city to hand over for a mixed-use development.

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.

Orange Pineapple Representative: We’re sensitive to the historic contributions made by Mr. McAlpin. And we’re committed to ensuring that both the block and McAlpin’s contributions live on if the application is granted. But again, we are requesting that the city commission please adopt a motion for demolition of the structure. 

RL: Sarasota City Senior Planner Dr. Clifford Smith says the McAlpin House is important to the city’s architectural story and cultural fabric, and shouldn’t be demolished.

Clifford Smith: I really would like to see if there’s any possibility of saving this site. This, to me, has begged the question on a number of fronts. 

RL:  Residents say Sarasota’s history can’t be consumed by speculative developers. Erin DiFazio, program director of the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation:

Erin DiFazio: The community relies on you as our elected officials to uphold our ordinances that safeguard our city from the whims of speculative development, and it is what makes Sarasota unique. Developers will find a way to meet the bar that you set. Please give them that opportunity by McAlpin House. 

RL: Commissioner Debbie Trice wants more details on the project.

Debbie Trice: I fully understand that you can’t do a detailed site plan until you know what the site will look like, whether or not the McAlpin house will still be there. But at the same time, I think it’s unreasonable to ask the city commission to give you the right to demolish the McAlpin house without us knowing what the site plan is. What are you planning to do if we sacrifice Sarasota’s historic heritage? What will be in its place? Will it be something that would be beneficial for the city? So, you know, it seems like we’re in an impasse here. 

RL: But fellow City Commissioner Erik Arroyo said enough is enough on debating the matter, and the developer has a bottom line to consider.

Erik Arroyo: We can all agree that it’s a historic structure, but it’s also a very, very ugly building. I’d like for this to move forward and give them some time to move it. If we need to, Payne Park or whatever, but I think there needs to be … I don’t want this to come back again and, you know, we find out that we’re in exactly the same spot. Everybody loves this structure, but nobody’s willing to take it over. When do we, when do we say enough is enough? I am in favor of approving this demolition permit.

RL: But by a unanimous vote, the commissioners said they would again address the issue at the May 6th board meeting, giving more time for all parties to finding a viable solution to tearing down the McAlpin House.

This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.



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