As land and property values skyrocket and zoning changes lead to taller buildings and increased density, historic homes are often razed in the pursuit of profit. But some Sarasota locals see them as prized places that give us “a unique sense of place that defines us,” says Erin DiFazio, a restoration designer and realtor specializing in historic homes. She's also president of the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation.
That’s the sentiment driving the second annual "Six to Save" initiative. It was created by the History & Preservation Coalition of Sarasota County, a loose affiliation of local museums, historical societies, archives and historic preservation groups. DiFazio also sits on its committee.
This year the list includes the Southgate Community Center, the Herald Square building, the Philippi Crest Community Center, Arlington Park and the Lampp Mound house. And while the program's title is Six to Save, this year just five made it to the list due to a nomination delay caused by sudden illness.
Nominating a neighborhood was a first. Arlington Park, the area between Bahia Vista and Webber streets, and Tamiami and Tuttle Avenue, is considered a charming neighborhood with many homes that exemplify that Old Florida feel. But with its proximity to downtown, Southside Village, Southside Elementary and Sarasota Memorial Hospital, it has become a coveted area—and increasing home prices there are hard for some homeowners to ignore. When they sell, it often gives way to demolition.
"These new buildings are edge-to-edge on the lot line and are very imposing, rather than fitting in with the architecture and character of the neighborhood. There has been some talk about future large-scale development projects and they've already seen a tremendous amount of demolition there," DiFazio says.
Modeled after the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 to Save program, the aim of the citizen-powered Sarasota Six to Save is to draw attention to our treasure trove of historic properties and motivate citizens to help save them. (The South Gate Community Center designed by Victor Lundy in 1956, currently on this year's Six to Save roster, was included on the Florida Trust's list in 2016.)
Saving these gems may feel like an insurmountable task, but DiFazio encourages residents to join local historic preservation associations and get involved in local politics, speaking up at City of Sarasota and Sarasota County meetings that weigh zoning, planning and development.
"If the county and city leaders understand [preservation] is a priority for a lot of people here, they'll start to take it more seriously," she says.