Historic Myth-Busters

Historic Preservation = Enhanced Property Values

Historic Myth-Busters


geri-2Dispelling one myth after the next, a panel of experts exposed the truth about historic preservation to a crowded room at the Winter Park Community Center.

The three panelists, who spoke October 29 at an event co-hosted by the Winter Park Voice and Friends of Casa Feliz, were Kathleen Kauffman, Historic Preservation Chief of Miami-Dade County, Christine Dalton, Historic Preservation Officer of the city of Sanford, and Richard Gonzalez, AIA, immediate past president of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. The panel was moderated by Senior Orlando Sentinel Columnist, Beth Kassab.

First came the news that Winter Park isn’t special in the struggle to save its heritage. Throughout Florida, rising land values are luring investors who gobble up older, smaller homes and replace them with massive, profit-making structures.

McMansions Thrive in Expensive Dirt

“It’s not just here,” said Kauffman. “It’s everywhere in the state.”

That news may have been small comfort to the more than 80 people attending the informational event. Most seemed concerned about protecting buildings that reflect the city’s heritage. The panel was held eleven days before the City Commission’s vote Nov. 9 to revise its historic preservation ordinance. Missing from the audience were the city staffers and most of the appointed board members, invited because they are involved in preservation decisions.

Property Value Fears Debunked

For those who did attend – interested residents, one member of the city’s Historic Preservation Board, Rebecca Talbert, and one City Commissioner, Carolyn Cooper – the panel had encouraging news, too. Fears about diminished property values and unhappy homeowners turn out to be myths. Cities with strong historic districts have healthy property values, satisfied residents and even happier real-estate agents, the panelists agreed.

Dalton, who described herself as “one of the most pro-development people you’re ever going to meet,” said she has heard claims that historic districts hurt property values, but she said, “That is not at all what we’re seeing” in Sanford.

“I get Realtors’ calls all the time asking, ‘When are you going to expand the size of the districts?'” she said, noting the strong demand for homes in Sanford’s historic districts.

No Documented Cases of Lowered Values

Kauffman said her research found no documented case anywhere that [a historic district] lowers property values. Instead, she found the opposite. People are motivated to buy when they know their investment in a historic home will be protected from the whims of indifferent neighbors, she said. Historic districts also tend to get more attention from City Hall when it comes to services and amenities, like street lights and utilities.

Still Plenty of Room for McMansions

Those who want to build homes not in keeping with historic guidelines still have plenty of choices, said Gonzalez. Most cities in Florida are like Winter Park, with only about five percent of its land considered historic, he pointed out. “So if you want to build a McMansion, go pick on that other 95 percent.”

When Kassab asked if people worry about having less control over their homes, panelists observed that preservation staff typically work closely to help homeowners. Ninety percent of requested changes in Sanford are minor ones dealt with easily by staff, Dalton said.

Preservation Staff Can Help Homeowners Save $$

“Most of the time we work with homeowners, we save them money,” said Kauffman, who regards historic preservation as “one added layer of value protection” for a property owner, rather than additional control. She noted that Miami-Dade doesn’t regulate a home’s interior or changes or additions to the back of a house.

Panelists identified several additional strategies for successful districts — creative incentives for property owners, an independent Historic Preservation Board with qualified members, and commitment to the importance of preservation.

“Getting the right people in positions of leadership is so important,” Dalton said.

Worth Protecting

Historic Preservation — Reports from the Front Lines

Worth Protecting

WP Voice & Casa Feliz to Host Panel Discussion
Historic Preservation — How Does It Work In the Real World?
When: October 29 – 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
Where: Winter Park Community Center
             721 West New England Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32789
Moderator: Beth Kassab, award-winning columnist of the Orlando Sentinel.
Panelists are among Florida’s foremost experts on historic preservation.
 
rickgRick Gonzalez, AIA, President of REG Architects in West Palm Beach, is the immediate past chairman of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation and an accomplished preservation architect. His resume includes the restoration of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and the 1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse.
  
kskKathleen Slesnick Kauffman, AICP, Preservation Chief of Miami-Dade County, oversees 127 individually designated sites, 43 archaeological sites and zones, 5 historic districts, and the 24 municipalities within the county that don’t have their own ordinance. She has served as the executive director of the Florida Trust and as the Historic Preservation Officer in Fort Pierce and Lake Park.
christinedChristine Dalton, is the Community Planner and Historic Preservation Officer for the City of Sanford. She is an adjunct professor at Rollins College where she teaches Introduction to Historic Preservation. 
It can seem a hollow exercise to argue historic preservation in the abstract. Does it enhance or diminish property values?  Is voluntary preservation truly effective, or is it the beginning of open season on historic structures? What, if any, is the tangible value of historic preservation in our communities?
Our Panelists all work within communities that have robust, long-standing historic preservation programs. As Winter Park grapples with the role of historic preservation in our community, our panel of experts will share their real-time experiences with historic preservation.
Please join us at the Community Center October 29 for a lively, informative discussion.