The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: Old School Square Historic District gets national listing

By Jane Smith

Delray Beach can now boast it has two historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places.
The newest register listing came in mid-March when the National Park Service, which keeps the Historic Places list, decided that the Old School Square Historic District could join the Marina Historic District.
“We are delighted that this honor has at last been bestowed on one of our most cherished historic districts,” said JoAnn Peart, president of the Delray Beach Historic Preservation Trust. The city asked the group in 2014 to begin working on the district for submittal to the National Register. “It took a lot of time and sweat to get the district listed.”
The district, which runs along Swinton Avenue from Northeast Fourth Street to Southeast Second Street, is home to some of the city’s most significant buildings, including the Old School Square campus and the 1902 Sundy House, home of the city’s first mayor. Both are listed individually on the National Register.
After the state approved sending the district listing to the federal level in late November, Hudson Holdings — developer of the proposed Midtown Delray project in the southern half of the district — put out a flier with misinformation about what the National Register listing would mean to property owners, according to Historic Preservation Trust members.
“SAY ‘NO’ TO THIS DAMAGING DESIGNATION,” the flier copy read. Instead of being a feather in the cap, the National Register listing was described as limiting property repair and renovation, she said.
But the historic building changes and renovations are reviewed on the local level by the city’s Historic Preservation Board, Peart said. Nothing is done on the federal level, she said.
Steve Michael, Hudson Holdings co-founder, said he no longer opposes the designation.
“We originally thought they were trying to stop the development of Midtown Delray,” he said. “But we don’t think that anymore.”
Historic Presevation board chairman, John Miller, called the flier “mean-spirited and punitive.” On the flier, Hudson Holdings offered the services of its notary to have the statements certified, he said.
Michael said his team was trying to educate property owners about the designation. Midtown Delray received conditional approval from the city one week before the district was listed on the National Register in mid-March.
“We need to make them aware of the changes to our site plan that includes demolitions and slight relocations of historic buildings,” Michael said. “I don’t know when we will alert the National Park Service. We are trying to work on our site plan.”
The listing was delayed by 30 days after another district property owner appealed to the National Park Service in mid-February to postpone the decision. The owner promised to provide details, but didn’t produce them.

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