Historic Home

The Historic McAlpin Home, Part of a Major Downtown Sale, Stays Where It Is—for Now

City of Sarasota Commissioners voted yesterday for a continuance in an appeal by the developer to demolish the 1912 George McAlpin home, known for its rare and pre-cast rusticated block.

By Kim Doleatto October 3, 2023

The locally designated historic George McAlpin home was built in 1925.

Image: Kim Doleatto

The historic George McAlpin home in downtown Sarasota has at least six more months to sit smack-dab in the middle of what will be a mixed-use commercial and residential project. (At least, that’s what we might assume it is without a site plan yet.)

City commissioners voted unanimously yesterday for a six-month continuance after a legal representative for Orange Pineapple, the LLC that purchased the roughly 3-acre multi-parcel property adjacent to Burns Court, appealed to demolish the 1912 McAlpin home. 

Made of a rare and distinct pre-cast rusticated block designed by McAlpin himself, the Historic Preservation Board decided by a 4-0 vote to deny the application that requested its demolition. An appeal to city commissioners could have overturned the decision.

Located at 1530 Cross St., the McAlpin house is zoned "downtown core" and up to 10 stories could go up in its place if it's demolished, with a density of 50 units per acre—the highest allowed in the city without any affordable housing component that might allow for an increased density bonus.

Built in 1912, the McAlpin home was once the residence of George McAlpin, known for his concrete work throughout Laurel Park and the bayfront before the City of Sarasota was incorporated. (For more on its historic significance, click here.) The home was locally historically designated by its then-owner, Robert Kimbrough in 1984, granting it certain protections.

During the meeting, some of the commissioners admitted they had seen the proposed future plans for the project, and that they were "exciting"; however, the developer's representative did not include the plans in his presentation.

Blocks 1 and 2 show the property owned by Orange Pineapple LLC. The home is on Cross Street, which bisects the two.

City of Sarasota senior planner Clifford Smith, who is also the secretary of the Historic Preservation Board, maintained that the home was one of only a handful in the same style that remain countywide.

The developer's team says that efforts to move and donate the home, free of charge to the receiver, have thus far failed. 

If granted permission to demolish, legal representative Patrick Seidensticker of Icard Merrill said the applicant would engage a local craftsman to take molds of the pre-cast concrete blocks crafted by McAlpin and donate them, along with a “fully immersive 3-D" rendering of the building, to the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation and the City of Sarasota. He also suggested spearheading an effort to rename an area or street in the vicinity in McAlpin’s name or to create a historical marker describing his contributions and showcasing some of the salvaged blocks.

Commissioners expressed wanting to find a new location for the home. Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch said incorporating it into the final design for the project would be ideal, and cited examples including the historic Belle Haven on the Sarasota bayfront. 

As for incorporating it, Lorrie Muldowney, president of the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation, says, "I think about the need for visual and historical variety in new buildings—great cities have that. Incorporating the historic structures offers diverse stories that tell of different periods throughout a city's development, and keeping it where it is offers geographical context."

Three public speakers joined via Zoom to oppose the home's demolition, including Sarasota County Commissioner and architect Mark Smith. It was also noted that the developer knew about the historically designated home prior to purchasing the property.

"Our organization is interested in engaging with them in a process to save the building and fill them in on the flexibility in the building code where historic buildings are concerned," Muldowney says. "There's also the potential for grants or funding for preservation. Where there's a will, there's a way."

The managing member of Orange Pineapple LLC is Christopher McGrew, the founding partner and chief executive of Steele Harbour, based in Tysons, Virginia. He declined to comment for this story.

City of Sarasota commissioners will revisit the issue no later than mid-March of next year.

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