The What’s What and Who’s Who for Historic Preservation Within the City of St. Petersburg!

Preserve the ‘Burg often gets questions about what can the City offer for help with preservation concerns and where to go within the City to get answers to preservation questions. The City has a small historic preservation staff, a historic preservation commission and a myriad of online resources for those seeking help and answers to their questions. We know it’s not always easy to understand what to look for or who to ask - even the historic preservation info on the city’s website is a bit counter-intuitive to find (historic preservation is not listed under city departments). Read on and hopefully you will have your answer for the what’s what and the who’s who and learn about how to find the fun stuff!

From the big picture perspective, the city has a Division of Urban Planning and Historic Preservation, managed by long time staff member Derek Kilborn and a historic preservation commission formally titled the Community Planning and Preservation Commission (“CPPC”). It’s a board composed of non-compensated community members appointed by the Mayor and approved by City Council. Among its more important responsibilities, the CPPC reviews all landmark applications in a public hearing format and recommends to city council whether the application should be approved. The Division includes two professional historic preservationists, Laura Duvekot and Kelly Perkins. Click here for the contact list with phone number & email for Derek and his staff.

City preservation staff responsibilities include the administration of a number of preservation programs, including those for Landmarks; Monuments and Markers; Ad Valorem Tax (“AVT”) Exemptions; and for Transfer of Development Rights (“TDR’s”). Staff also review all Certificates of Appropriateness (“COA’s”) for changes affecting landmark properties [including alterations, additions or demolitions] and review nominations to the National Register of Historic Places. Finally, staff assists the CPPC and aids the public with historical research, rehabilitation and economic incentive questions. This means that Laura and Kelly are the right people to contact if you are thinking about landmarking your property or perhaps you and your neighbors are wondering about how a neighborhood becomes a historic district. It also means if you own a landmark property and are considering making exterior changes to it, Laura and Kelly are the resource to turn to for questions on what is required, what is subject to staff approval or what is subject to CPPC public hearing and approval.  

But what about the fun stuff - like what funky, old neon signs or “legacy” businesses (50+ years old) still exist in St. Pete, what self-guided preservation tours are available or how to research your home’s history? All of this info can be found on the city’s website! To get you started, a hint about how the city’s website is organized – most pages are set up so the page not only provides information on a particular subject but the left side of the page also offers a menu of “clickable” options for more information. For example, opening the historic preservation page (consider “bookmarking ” this page for future reference) has on the left-hand side options for more information on historic resources, historic preservation documents, and historic research library.

To further become familiar with the information available from the historic preservation page, click from the options on the left-side of the page, “historic resources”. When this page opens, you will see on the page’s main body two options: a box taking you to the historic preservation map or a box taking you to the design guidelines booklet (info about recognized architectural styles prevalent throughout the City, helpful when planning maintenance or rehabilitation of historic properties).

A gallery of Masonry Vernacular style buildings around St. Pete

The map is an informative and largely unknown tool that one could spend hours using! The map allows one to select (add or exclude) map layers. Each layer offers information about a particular historic resource such as designated landmarks, National Register listed properties or historic districts. Additional layers add to the map information on historic signage, legacy businesses and brick streets or hex block sidewalks. The layers use color coded boxes or highlighting. For example, clicking on the historic signage layer will place on the map small colored boxes locating each commercial sign included in the city’s historic sign survey - click on a box and a window will open with the address and name of the sign. Before trying out the map you may want to read some simple about using it: historic map directions.pdf

A photo of El Cap's neon sign

What other information is accessible from the historic resource webpage? The drop down menu on the left-hand side of the page offers links to a chronological listing (thru 2017) of locally designated (landmark) properties; self-guided tours you can avail yourself of, including the African American Heritage Trail and the Walk St. Pete Florida Stories audio tour; the City’s historic sign booklet, complete with photos of those signs still existing as well as some of the signs that have been lost; a list of 65 markers and monuments located within the city (check it out to see how many you can recognize!); information about the city’s “traditional” streetscapes consisting of brick streets, hex block sidewalks granite curbing and mature trees (did you know many of the city’s remaining traditional streetscape elements are protected?); and a list of the city’s legacy businesses, including a link to tell the city about other legacy businesses that may have been overlooked. All in all, there is a lot of easily accessible information about the unique features that make St. Petersburg special!

A black and white photo of a shuffle board court in St. Pete

To round out the city’s historic preservation website resources, there are two additional options that can be opened from the choices on the left-side of the historic resource webpage, “historic preservation documents” and “historic research library”. The documents page includes links to the city’s historic preservation ordinance (St. Petersburg Historic and Archaeological Preservation Overlay) and to the state preservation plan; local and Federal design guidelines for historic properties; application forms for designation and alterations to designated properties; and documents related to local preservation incentives.

Opening the historic research library page offers a link to the Resource and Research Guide. The Guide offers information about how to research your home’s history and is packed with links to local historic preservation resources, including publications about St. Petersburg history, photo & video collections and biographies of key individuals from St. Petersburg’s history.

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