Adaptive Reuse in Florida

By Isa Esquivel
SAM TAC 2023-24

The history of Sarasota Art Museum’s building is no secret. Left behind when Sarasota High School outgrew the space, the future was uncertain for this building. Adaptive reuse as a way to give new life to old and unused buildings is quite popular among residents of historic and influential Florida towns. The purpose of adaptive reuse is to take      an existing structure, of historic importance or otherwise, and repurposing it to fulfill current needs. When it comes to SAM, the   managed to save a building iconic to Sarasota, as well as bring new life to the community in the form of SAM, an art museum and visual arts education center.

Sarasota Art Museum

Adaptive reuse has been used throughout the state of Florida. Here are four of my favorite examples from around the state.

NoMa Gallery (Ocala)

The Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in Ocala was built in 1939. In 1979, when it was 40 years old, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. In 2019, Lisa and David Midgett bought the Ocala building. Originally, the two were unsure what to do with the space, considering the idea of a distillery, but settled on the idea of an art gallery.

Just outside downtown Ocala, 939 North Magnolia Ave. is home to the Gallery on North Magnolia. NoMa Gallery is a collaborative artist workplace as well as a pop-up art gallery.

Ocala Union Station

The Ocala Union Station at 531 Northeast First Ave. was built in 1917. It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1997. In the same year, the City of Ocala led a restoration project for the station. The project aimed to increase overall effectiveness and restore the station to its former glory. The main passenger area sat empty for a decade after the station stopped operating in 2004.

Magnolia Art Xchange, or MAX, has been able to take advantage of the space. MAX is a collaborative resource hub for artists, educators and art lovers. As Ocala’s first art incubator, MAX fosters creativity and professionalism in and outside the doors.

1920’s St Petersburg Building

To me, 2151 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg is a model example of adaptive reuse. From what I found, it was built in 1926 and served as a multifamily home and storefront, but isn’t necessarily historically significant.

The current owner wanted to build a mixed-use space here and opted to use the original structure provided. Choosing to reuse the old building rather than tear it down saved time, money, and material that would’ve been spent constructing an entirely new building.

The owner and renovation team were thoughtful to maintain the building’s original flair while incorporating the modern look.

Elena Flats, Jacksonville

When the previous owner applied for a permit to knock down the building and replace it with a parking lot, the demolition was denied in a unanimous vote by the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission and Jacksonville’s city council. JoAnn Tredennick and her husband John Meeks, who have restored several old buildings, decided to love this building back to life. The Elena Flats now houses four luxury apartments.


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