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Sarasota Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 5 years ago

CONA offers lesson about value of historic property

Is your home or building 50 years old? If so, you should attend the Sarasota County Coalition of Neighborhood Association meeting Feb. 8.

Is your home or building 50 years old? If so, you should attend the Sarasota County Coalition of Neighborhood Association meeting Feb. 8. The speaker will be Lorrie Muldowney, immediate past manager of historical resources for Sarasota County, who, instead of retiring from her profession, is going into business as a consultant on historic preservation. She has opened a consultation service based in Sarasota that, although it may take her to consultations around the country, will keep her available for local clients.

Lorrie Muldowney

No one in the community is better prepared to assist clients regarding this topic — she has pursued her degrees specializing in it and has taught it through the graduate level. She is affiliated with local and national historic preservation organizations and a litany of professional planning organizations, and she has served in government positions focused upon the preservation of historical resources throughout her professional career.

Some initial history: Muldowney and I first crossed paths in 1984 in Sarasota, when she was working as a senior planner at the municipal government, developing programs for historic preservation and reviewing petitions for designation. The programs she developed for the city aided property owners to evaluate and obtain designations for properties ranging from monuments, graveyards, homes, churches and commercial buildings to whole districts of the community.

At that time, I was beginning my association with the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation that had been founded by Veronica Morgan with the objective to save Owen Burns’ 1926 El Vernona Hotel (then dubbed the John Ringling Towers). I would have to write a tome to cover all of that history. Muldowney was an invaluable consultant to that effort. She also advised me in my campaign to take Seagate, the Powel and Gwendolyn Crosley winter retreat on Sarasota Bay into public ownership. Although that campaign also played out over several years, the outcome was more positive.

In 1991, our community lost the close involvement of Muldowney as she pursued her education, began her teaching career in Gainesville as a professor at the University of Florida, and explored professional options. Some, including me, worried that she would never return as a resident, but in 1993 Muldowney was hired by Sarasota County and began the path that lead to her oversight of historical resources and becoming a professor at Eckerd College and the University of Florida. She also oversaw the writing of grants and rose to appointment to local and national grant panels.

Integrating historical preservation into the planning and development of communities and neighborhoods has been as important to Muldowney as facilitating the designation of single buildings and homes. Benefits of historic preservation to the community have been short-listed from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 12-point range by Thomas Mayes, its deputy general counsel, to six broad areas:

 1. Jobs

2. Property values

3. Heritage tourism, 

4. Environmental impact

5. Social impact

6. Downtown revitalization.

The trust benefit list includes and expands on continuity, memory, individual identity, civic identity, beauty, history, architecture, learning, sacredness, creativity, ancestors, sustainability, and economics (see

While acknowledging the importance of these values to the entire community, Muldowney will concentrate on the benefits of historic preservation to our homeowners and neighborhoods during her discussion at CONA. She will discuss the benefits of living in a home that is designated as historic and the value that is added to communities with designated structures.

Oft-heard rumors about limits imposed on property owners following historic designation are untrue and discourage pursuit of designations for structures that could enhance our communities greatly through higher property values, retaining the character of neighborhoods and creating a sense of place with significant charm. Are you interested in historic preservation?​

Many of our homes and buildings are crossing the threshold of 50 years that typically is required for historic designation. Is your property one of them?

As president of CONA, I invite you to join us to learn the facts about historic designation and the added value it brings to homeowners, neighborhoods, and communities.

Kafi Benz is president of the Sarasota Council of Neighborhood Associations.

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