Historic Preservation In Coastal Florida Real Estate Development

By: Andy Howe

These days almost every Florida waterfront real estate location that is in demand has an architectural heritage of some sort that needs protecting. The groups charged with that protection can be formal or informal, governmental or community. The common theme is usually a love of the area's architecture, history and character combined with a desire to protect it.

In comes the real estate developer with a cool idea for a project. The same architecture, history and character often make the neighborhood a great candidate for real estate development.

In a perfect world the developer's plan is in harmony with the surrounding area and everyone is happy. The problem is that in reality it is very difficult for a developer to have anticipated all of the local issues in creating a project - even the really really cool ones. This is the point where many developers get in a tug of war with historic preservation groups over the project specifics, the developers economic goals and vision vs what the historic preservation group's vision of what is best for the neighborhood.

Obviously it's difficult in advance to chart a path to getting along with historic preservation groups and still creating successful projects. Every project is different, every neighborhood is different and every historic preservation group has different goals and hot buttons. With that in mind, I try to work through the issues with the following rules of thumb:

Get input early. With any new development we try to meet with concerned historic preservation groups and the governmental authority to not only find out what the approval process is, but also to find out what the historic preservation group's vision is.

Listen. A historic preservation group usually has a very thorough knowledge of the history of an area, but also what has worked and what has failed, what has been accepted and what has been fought.

Accept. We try very hard to put our egos in our back pockets, keep an open mind, and try to incorporate good input into the project concept and design. When we take that approach, getting past an issue that truly negatively impacts the economics of the project is typically much easier.

Pick your issues carefully. Notice that I said issues - not battles. When a developer and historic group are working together, the project's financial goals become another one of the team's criteria. If an issue truly has a negative impact that needs to be overcome, work through it.

Adhere. I few make a commitment to a historic preservation group, we stick to it. Nothing creates hard feelings faster than blown promises.

Communicate. Every project has changes. When the preservation group is involved in the changes and continues to have input as a project evolves, the project is typically better for it.

Trying to align the project with the goals of historic preservation groups is in everyone's best interest.

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