Michael Drake wants to give the history of Longboat Key a permanent home.
The Longbeach Village resident was named president of the Longboat Key Historical Society by the organization’s board on June 6. Now, Drake is working to raise money to move two historic cottages, which were built in the 1930s as part of the Whitney Resort, to make them a headquarters for the society.
In recent years, the Historical Society, which started in the 1980s, has struggled to maintain a presence on the Key. After the organization’s museum at Whitney Beach Plaza closed in 2012, former president Pam Coleman kept the society’s materials, including photographs, paintings and shell collections, in public storage — until the group could no longer afford the rent. The historic materials are now stored in Coleman’s home.
Drake said the state of the society has been on his mind for years.
“It’s unfortunate that the town of Longboat Key has never made it a goal to give the Historical Society a home,” Drake said.
Now, Drake has assumed that responsibility, and he knows what needs to be done. However, to make his goal a reality, he doesn’t mince words.
“Fundraising needs to start immediately,” Drake said.
The cottages are currently located on the property of the Center for the Arts, which closed in May. In a sale negotiated by Realtor Reid Murphy, developer Jim Clabaugh purchased the 2.3-acre site from Ringling College earlier this month for $1.85 million. Clabaugh intends to construct 12 single-family homes on the land. Demolition of the arts center buildings could begin within weeks, he has said.
Before the sale closed, Clabaugh agreed to donate the two cottages to Drake. As Clabaugh hopes to begin development this summer, Drake said it’s crucial the Historical Society raise the $45,000 needed to relocate the cottages as soon as possible.
Drake hopes to move the cottages to a 0.44-acre vacant lot at 521 Broadway St. He said he is talking with the property’s owner, Greg Ciccolo. Ultimately, Drake would like to see the Historical Society gain ownership of the land, but the talks haven’t reached that point yet. The Manatee County Tax Assessor’s Office values the land at $337,000. It last sold in September 2014 for $350,000.
Longboat Key Planning, Zoning and Building Director Alaina Ray said the lot is zoned for residential use, but the historical society could apply for a special exemption to the code for nonprofit organizations. The exemption would need to be approved by the Planning and Zoning Board.
If the group files for this exemption by June 26, the Planning and Zoning Board could hear the case as early as Sept. 19, Ray said. She added that the cottages could be moved to the vacant property before board approval as long as the structures are placed on a foundation that complies with required flood regulations.
Drake said the $45,000 estimate includes constructing the foundation and moving the cottages.
The move will require the larger of the two cottages to be moved in two pieces and reattached after relocation, Drake said. The site is near the corner of Gulf of Mexico Drive and across the street from a former gas station. The gas station site had been discussed as a possible home for one of the cottages, but it was recently put under contract to be sold. A new retail store and gas station is proposed.
Drake envisions the smaller cottage will be a museum while the larger one will have multiple uses, such as a community meeting space and place for lectures.
In March, north end resident group LBK North began a public discourse about the possibility of the town relocating the larger of the two cottages. The group’s Denton Crews said he was surprised when he heard of Drake’s own initiative.
Crews maintains that the cottage should be used for “a good, community-oriented purpose,” adding that the leaders of LBK North have not yet met to discuss Drake’s proposal, including how Drake intends to raise the necessary funds.
“One needs to wait and see what the plan is,” Crews said.
While Drake believes the historically designated Longbeach Village is an apt home for the Historical Society, he said the initiative is one for the whole island.
“It’s going to take all of Longboat Key,” Drake said. “I want the whole key involved in making the Historical Society what it always should have been.”
To donate to the Longboat Key Historical Society:
Longboat Key Historical Society
260 Bay Isles Road
P.O. BOX 8744
Longboat Key, FL 34228
IN A NUTSHELL
The plan: Michael Drake, elected president of the Longboat Key Historical Society on June 6, proposes moving the two historic cottages from the arts center property to a vacant lot on Broadway Stree.
What needs to happen soon: To move the buildings and construct two foundations, Drake says $45,000 must be raised this summer.
What needs to happen later: The property at 521 Broadway St. is zoned residential. The Historical Society could apply for a special exemption before the Planning and Zoning Board. The request could be heard as early as Sept. 19.