Preservation in the Sunshine: Myth vs. Reality

March 19, 2024

Despite decades of research and practice demonstrating the value historic neighborhoods and historic structures add to cities in Florida and across the nation, property owners sometimes encounter a swirl of myths, horror stories and half-truths.

We wanted to look at some common myths surrounding historic preservation and provide detailed, accurate information you can use to learn more about how preservation in St. Petersburg works.

Myth: Historic preservation will lower property values.

Reality: A 2024 study evaluating the benefits of historic preservation in St. Petersburg shows that between 2008 and 2022, property values in St. Petersburg’s historic districts have increased in value at a greater rate than residential property values in the rest of the city. Kenwood, Granada Terrace and Roser Park are all Locally Designated Historic Neighborhoods and are some of the city’s most desirable places to live.

Myth: Preservationists want to stop new development.

Reality: Preservationists support thoughtful new development that enhances what we all love about our city. A variety of architectural styles, histories, and uses are what make cities unique, walkable and fun! We need both new and funky, older buildings to keep St Pete special.

Myth: Historic preservationists want to take away property rights.

Reality: Historic preservation is part of St. Petersburg's existing code of ordinances and has been since 1985. That’s almost 40 years! It is no different than other zoning regulations that govern development. Ordinances like these – created with citizen input - help guide growth and give residents a say in how their neighborhood develops.

Myth: Working with the City will delay your renovation.

Reality: In fiscal year 2020, 95% of all Certificates of Appropriateness “COAs” reviewed by the city were approved, with the vast majority approved by city staff with no public hearing.

Tip: Considering a major renovation? Meet with the City's preservation staff first! The city offers FREE design consultations and has comprehensive style guides for your reference.

Myth: Caring for my historic home or building will become a money pit.

Reality: Maintenance of ALL buildings with quality products can be expensive, but living in a historic district does not require you to spend money on your home or building. In fact, you may be eligible for grants or other incentives to help offset repair costs.

Myth: The City’s historic preservation department will tell you what color to paint your house or building.

Reality: Local historic districts do not govern paint color. The Craftsman House Gallery, a local St Pete Landmark, is purple!

Craftman House is located in Historic Kenwood.

Myth: I won’t be able to insure my historic home or building.

Reality: Property insurance in Florida is a challenge for all property owners. An older property will require coverage whether or not it is historically designated.

Funfact: 46% - almost half! – of ALL buildings in St. Petersburg were built before 1960.

Myth: Historic districts do not provide the density St. Petersburg needs to support transit, walkability and growth.

Reality: Our historic neighborhoods – Old Northeast, Roser Park, Kenwood - are some of the densest parts of St Petersburg. In fact, data from our forthcoming PlaceEconomics study shows that, on average, St. Pete’s historic districts are denser than the rest of the city.

Myth: We need to demolish older structures so we can construct more affordable housing.

Reality: Older multi-family units like duplexes, quadplexes, and apartment buildings are some of the most affordable housing options in the city. Often referred to as Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing or “NOAH,” these affordable units are being demolished at a rapid rate.

Myth: Historic homes and buildings are not energy efficient.

Reality: Construction materials account for around 25% of landfill debris in Pinellas County. The “embodied energy” consumed in the extraction, processing, manufacturing, transportation, and installation of building materials is significant. Demolishing a building not only wastes these embodied resources but also generates significant amounts of construction and demolition waste, which often ends up in landfills. Reusing historic buildings should be part of any city’s sustainability plan.

Myth: Historic preservationists want to live in a museum. 

Reality: Historic districts are living, breathing neighborhoods that change over time. Historic preservation does not require you to save every doorknob and window, or every old building. But it helps residents by ensuring new construction complements the surrounding neighborhood. Historic designation allows residents to have a say in what is being built in their neighborhood.

Want more? Here are six practical reasons to save older buildings, and here are 24 reasons why historic buildings and neighborhoods are good for cities.

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