Around the district………

The Burns Court Neighborhood Association has published a spectacular guide for visitors to its National Register of Historic Places District and surrounds.   The neighborhood is a mecca for those who shop local artisans and independents!  The streets are filled with one of a kind merchants, restaurants, cafes and businesses housed in some of Sarasota’s most treasured historically designated architecture.


You can read more about the history of the district at – More Districts

And here is the wonderfully, spectacular guide:

(Click anywhere on the map to enlarge)



Form-Based Code for Laurel Park

The City of Sarasota is finally working to update and improve the existing zoning code.  To accomplish this, they are looking to use form-based code.  The Urban Design Studio, a newly formed department in the City of Sarasota has been charged with the task.  This modernization of Sarasota’s code can have positive effects on the future development of the Laurel Park National Register Historic District and the entire area known as Laurel Park, currently zoned RSM-9.


So what is Form-Based Code?

The Urban Design Studio defines it as:

A form-based code (FBC) and its districts are different than conventional zoning. Conventional zoning designates permitted uses of land based on mapped zones which separate one set of land uses from another, and while it separates uses it is difficult to determine what the built environment or community will look like upon build out.  A Form-based code fosters predict-able buildings and high-quality public spaces by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code. The zone districts or Transects are regulations, not mere guidelines, adopted into city or county law.  Form-based codes address the relationship between building facades and public spaces such as parks, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks. The regulations and standards in form-based codes are presented in words and clearly drawn diagrams, metrics and other graphics.  

Interestingly, in 2007 Sarasota County Commissioners voted to add form-based code to the county’s zoning as an option for mixed-use and commercial development.  According to Sarasota County’s website:

The code is uniquely designed for Sarasota County and addresses the connection of:
  • buildings and pedestrians to the public realm,
  • the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another,
  • the scale and network of streets and blocks.

Sanborn 1

Old Sanborn Map – portion of  today’s Laurel Park


In older neighborhoods such as Laurel Park where the history of development spans decades with no one code applied throughout, the flexibility of form-based code makes terrific sense.

Laurel Park is a neighborhood where:

  • setbacks vary from property to property
  • architectural styles are diverse
  • portions of the neighborhood lie in a flood zone
  • there are a variety of sidewalk, curb, apron, and street types
  • rights-of-ways vary

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There is a wealth of information to quickly understand how form-based code works and can be applied.  The Form-Based Codes Institute  is an obvious and a tremendous resource for information:

555 S. Osprey








More information is available in these articles:

Dialing-in your zoning to fit your community by Tony Perez

Why design guidelines on their own don’t work by Kaizer Rangwala

Form-based codes – new approach to zoning  published by Smart Growth Tactics

Finding the right path through design review by Kaizer Rangwala

Ways to fail at form-based codes: Don’t articulate a vision by Hazel Borys



Update – Contemporary Design in Historic Districts……..

I posted this awhile back and I am bringing it forward to add an update………….

Last week a judge ruled on the controversial case of a modern house in the historic Raleigh, NC neighborhood of Oakwood.

Read the judges decision in the News & Observer .


Photo – courtesy of the News & Observer

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“…The evolution of architecture hasn’t ended, and that’s why preservation professionals strongly support integrating “modern” design into historic districts………the richness of the layers will continue to appreciate as our own generation adds to the mix while respecting what went before.” Myrick Howard

602822_546080445427964_466147288_nContemporary home in Laurel Park

Here is a great article by a well regarded preservation professional as to why modern architecture is both welcome and “fits” in our historic districts: Oakwood controversy over ‘contemporary’ house disturbing on many levels

“Raleigh’s historic districts were built over a period of decades – house-by-house, owner-by-owner. Unlike modern subdivisions, they contain numerous styles and sizes, and it is this richness that gives them their character. They are mosaics, made up of many distinctive parts. No one style predominates, so it makes no sense whatsoever to prescribe stylistic limitations.” Myrick Howard


Raleigh’s Oakwood Historic District has the distinction of being both a National Register District and a locally designated district.  Laurel Park is only  a National Register District.  The districts are similar in that they have no one year of significance or style of architecture.  Development of the Laurel Park neighborhood began at the turn of the twentieth century, flourished in the 1920’s and experienced another “growth spurt” in the 40’s and early 50’s.   The district is generally associated with events that were important to the early development of Sarasota from 1920-1957.  The architectural styles are all over the place.

The lack of understanding of historic preservation has led some Laurel Park residents to believe that replicating the architectural style, maintaining a vintage, historic appearance is necessary to the preservation of a district.  This tells me that preservation professionals and advocates need to do a better job of educating our community.  Some of Laurel Park’s best new homes are those that define this decade in time by introducing architectural diversity into the fabric of the neighborhood.

1723 Oak StreetLaurel Park – New construction in a flood zone

Parking in Sarasota……

 Is it possible someone with authority in Sarasota government will get a grasp on to the value of paid parking and apply it?



“The two most common parking-related mistakes communities make in promoting New Urbanism are not providing sufficient on-street parking in downtown areas and not charging enough for the parking they do provide. It can be tempting to limit the bulk of parking to satellite facilities in an effort to encourage drivers to park and walk to their ultimate destinations. The problem with this approach is that drivers will often circle areas with limited on-street parking, searching for open spaces or spaces that are about to open. This can actually increase roadway congestion and create hazards for pedestrians who are forced to avoid circling vehicles.”


“A better approach is to provide sufficient parking to meet on-street demand, and to charge a premium for that parking, while charging less at nearby satellite facilities. Read more…….

Better Cities & Towns published this article by John Dorsett, a certified planner and principal with Walker Parking Consultants  in the May 2014 issue.

Older, Smaller, Better…………..


Measuring how the character of buildings and blocks influences urban vitality

From the National Trust’s Preservation Green Lab…………

“Corridors with smaller, older buildings generally perform better for the local economy than areas with newer buildings that might stretch an entire block.  Older buildings become magnets for young people and retirees alike……..”


“People want to be where there is an interesting and exciting mix of the old and new……Now we have all of this data to back up what i think preservationists and planners have sort of known for decades.”  Michael Powe, Urban planner.

Read the report here………


10 Reasons the American Dream has Changed……….

“A new America Dream has emerged in recent years. It is based on social and cultural diversity and the idea of community. This dream is more about great streets than highways. You can drive if you want, but you can also walk, ride a bike, take transit, or join carshare. In this dream, the things you are connected to are more important than who you are separated from.”

Robert Steuteville

Screen shot 2014-04-23 at 10.57.49 AMView the 10 reasons and read more………