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Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 10, 2010 7 years ago

Conference to preserve downtown history

by: Robin Roy City Editor

Traditionally, historic districts have been good economic engines. That’s why several downtown leaders are hoping to capitalize on Sarasota’s recent historic-district designation, which encompasses Main Street from Orange Avenue to Gulfstream Avenue and small portions of Palm Avenue and Pineapple Avenue just off Main Street.

Ernie Ritz, vice chairman of the Downtown Improvement District, and Tony Souza, former Downtown Partnership executive director, developed SemCon 2010, a June 12 conference that will focus on taking economic advantage of the Downtown Sarasota Historic District.

Funded by the DID and the Downtown Sarasota Alliance, SemCon 2010 will feature speakers familiar with historic districts, including the senior planner from the Orlando suburb, Winter Park, which has developed a vibrant historic district that features brick-paved streets and historic-looking storefronts.

Ritz hopes that Sarasota property owners in the historic district will restore their buildings to the original façades.

“We need to implement a storefront project to make Main Street look more historic,” he said.

With the official historic designation, property owners will be eligible for a 20% tax credit on any improvements they do to retain the historic nature of their buildings.

Ritz also would like to see something to distinguish the Downtown Sarasota Historic District from the rest of downtown, such as painting the light poles a different color.

“A group of ladies recently rolled down their window and said they saw a sign for the historic district and asked where it was,” said Ritz. “After I gave them directions and they left, I said ‘What the heck are they going to see?’”

He hopes SemCon will help address just that. Ritz and Souza want to hold a charrette in the fall, with help from the city, and seek public input on what residents would like to see in the historic district.

Souza said the DID may be able to finance any improvements.

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].

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