The city’s Historic Preservation Board approved plans to knock down the Gulf Beach Motel despite objections from some residents.
A developer successfully applied for the right to demolish the historically designated Gulf Beach Motel on Lido Key, a step toward the planned construction of a condominium project on the bayfront property.
The city’s Historic Preservation Board voted 5-1 on Tuesday to approve a certificate of appropriateness for the demolition of the 1950 motel, located at 930 Benjamin Franklin Drive. The prospective owner of the property and the current owners of the individual units argued the aging property was not of architectural significance, was no longer competitive with neighboring resorts and did not warrant the level of investment it would take to refurbish the buildings.
“People stay there for a bargain, not historic value or nostalgia,” said Brenda Patten, a land use attorney working on behalf of the applicant.
The city approved the property owners’ application to historically designate the Gulf Beach Motel site in 2003. The reason for the designation is because the site’s “structural components collectively convey a sense of time and place in history,” in this case the post-World War II tourism boom.
City staff recommended approval of the demolition permit, in part because the historic designation did not indicate any architectural significance for the structures on the property. Staff also noted there is another post-World War II motel located directly to the south of the Gulf Beach Motel. During its discussion, Historic Preservation Board members offered a similar assessment of the property.
“I get they are something of that period,” Board Vice Chairman Roberto Gonzalez said. “While I want to think of protecting that, I also understand that the structures that are there, … they are not unique; they are not in great shape.”
As part of the demolition agreement, the property owner will allow Sarasota Architectural Salvage to salvage items from the site to mitigate the loss of a historic property. Patten said the prospective owner hopes to use the motel sign in the future development of the site.
Some board members and speakers at Tuesday’s meeting argued in favor of the historic value of the motel and expressed skepticism about the existing property’s purported lack of financial viability. Board Member Evelyn Mangie questioned Patten’s assertion that a lack of modern amenities would keep visitors away from the motel.
“Nobody cares about anything except that it’s on the beach,” Mangie said.
Individuals living nearby the motel site submitted information to the city expressing concern about the prospective demolition and construction of condos on the property. Residents Scott MacQueen and Sonia Farwell, who live across the beach from the motel site, said they had environmental, traffic, noise and aesthetic concerns about the property. Patten said the developer had no specific plans for a future project on the site.
Mangie said she reluctantly cast her vote to approve the demolition, stating she believed the city would eventually lose its other older motel beachfront properties to make way for new construction.
“I think the whole thing’s going to go,” Mangie said. “Everyone will end up with some nice, fat condos.”