Friday, January 20, 2006

Sarasota's History

This month's issue of SRQ has an excellent article by Jeff LaHurd. The article takes readers on a "walking tour" of downtown Sarasota. In this tour a number of buildings that have an important story about Sarasota's history are described. As we all know, the number of these buildings remaining downtown is dwindling as redevelopment continues.

The Chicago Sun Times has an interesting article about Chicago's "system" for saving important structures in this city known for its architectural excellence. In addition to Chicago's Landmark designation (described below), buildings can be given a "color code" that triggers a city commission review prior to any proposed demolition. This system seems to work for those buildings not yet having the Landmark status.

Chicago's Landmark designation was created in March, 1987, when the Chicago City Council adopted an amendment to the then existing landmarks legislation that resulted in a major expansion in the City’s powers to protect historic resources. While there have been some amendments, the ordinance has remained largely intact over the past 15 years. The major innovation of the ordinance is that it gave the City the authority to prevent the demolition of designated landmarks. It is now very difficult, though not impossible, to destroy a designated landmark. This single provision has given the city the power to preserve its architectural heritage. Moreover, it has given the public interested in preservation a goal – move the City to designate buildings as landmarks and these important buildings will be retained and revitalized. The original ordinance did not provide such protections nor instill any confidence in the action of local government (from The Politics of Preservation).

Sarasota should consider options like these for preserving more of our historically significant buildings. Redevelopment pressure is not likely to lessen and we need to act now while some of our important structures still exist.

Readers should pick up a copy of SRQ and read LaHurd's article. It is worth every penny of the magazine's price.

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