City of Sarasota launches Newtown Historic Building Preservation Pilot Program

Project also designed to stabilize and improve Newtown property values

A map shows the location of the Newtown Community Redevelopment Area. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The City of Sarasota has launched a pilot program aimed at preserving historic structures in the Newtown community, the city has announced.

“The Newtown Historic Building Preservation Pilot Program is intended to encourage more restoration, rehabilitation and renovation of properties” in Sarasota’s historic African-American community, a news release explains.

“The project also aims to stabilize and improve Newtown’s property values and tax base and enhance the appearance and appeal of the community as a place to live, work or visit,” the release points out.

“One of the goals of the program is to preserve the rich cultural history that is evident in Newtown’s buildings. By doing so, we can help further establish the community as a heritage destination for visitors and a vibrant place to do business,” said Steven Stancel, general manager of the city’s Office of Economic Development, in the release.

Property owners interested in improving or restoring their buildings could be eligible for a portion of the $200,000 available in funding for the pilot program, the release notes. The program is being paid for through tax increment finance (TIF) revenue set aside for the Newtown Community Redevelopment Area (CRA).

To qualify, a building must be at least 50 years old and located within the Newtown Community Redevelopment Area, which extends from 17th Street to Myrtle Street and from U.S. 41 to Leonard Reid Avenue and the Seminole Gulf Railway.

All proposed work must meet the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s standards for rehabilitation, the release explains, and the majority of the proposed work must be to the exterior of the building. Additionally, the release points out, the property owner must have a clear title.

Preferences for the grant funding will be given to applicants who agree to do the following, the lease says: locally designate their historic building with the city’s Planning Department, sign a 10-year covenant to preserve their building, and give preference to local labor within the Newtown community for the restoration work. Preference also will go to those whose buildings are located along the African American Heritage Trail, part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.