Monday, January 25, 2016

Families Moving to Sarasota: Professional Networking

There are numerous networking groups in Sarasota FL that can ease the relocation process for young professionals moving to Sarasota. It's a good way to find out who's doing what in town., to share stories, goals and leads, and to find people to share activities with. 

Here's a sampling to check out: 

Sarasota Young Professionals Group (YPG) - sponsored by the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

Meetup Groups:

Families Moving to Sarasota: Neighborhoods with Top Rated Schools

Contrary to popular impression, Sarasota is home to many families with school-age children, as well as to well-heeled snowbirds and Boomer retirees. This small-town Gulf city combines great outdoor weather that allows kids to play outside most days and neighborhoods full of families, along with many public and private school options.

A handy Web site for evaluating local schools by rating is Next to each school listing and rating is a link for searching for homes for sale in that neighborhood, as well as a link to compare up to four different schools.

When I moved into my neighborhood more than a decade ago, most of the existing older houses were occupied by seniors, and I rarely saw children. Now, many of those same homes are occupied by parents with children, and even some of the new, upscale homes being built here are purchased by young families.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Boomers Relocating to Sarasota: How to be a Defensive Home Buyer

You may be sure of what your intention is for your move to Sarasota. And now you're ready for the fun part: looking for a house or condo. Before you make any commitments, I'd like to offer my opinion about market conditions here and how to be perhaps more defensive in your approach.

Here in Sarasota, it's becoming (already is?) a seller's market. Houses in my neighborhood, whether at the $169K or +$400K range, are selling quickly . . . as, in a week. We're on the ascendant side of a boom, with lots of new large condos, hotels, going up downtown, as well as many tear-downs-with-new-houses and remodels in the neighborhoods. 

So, hopefully, prices will continue to rise. However, one never knows when ascent will shift to descent. So many variables can conspire--local, national, international--as we saw in the boom-bust of 2000-2012.

Unless you're in the 1%, or you're a cash buyer, if you pay top-dollar now for a house, and you decide for whatever reason(s) that you don't want to be here long-term, and if market conditions shift, you risk being stuck with property that you can't afford to sell, thus limiting your options for moving elsewhere, and threatening your credit rating if you short-sell.

I noticed last night on Zillow that there are still quite a lot of properties listed as foreclosures or preforeclosures. You might consider looking at foreclosures in the various neighborhoods you're targeting. At least then you may find a below-market property, so you have profit potential if/when you decide to sell it.

However high this market rises--and with Boomer demand, it looks like no end in sight for awhile--some houses will never resell for what the current owner paid now. An extreme example is a house in an east-of-the-Trail neighborhood that sold in August for $620K, while Zillow values it at $384K. (I know Zillow isn't perfect, but I use it for illustration purposes.)

If I'm wrong, and the high prices endure, that will be great for me, you, and everyone else. But there's no downside to keeping more of your money liquid and only spending what you absolutely need on the cute little cottage or airy condo you dream of. Much easier to upsize later than to be unable to downsize.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Boomers Relocating to Sarasota: Meeting People when You're New in Town

Sarasota folks tend to be down-to-earth and genuine. Not everyone, but in general that's the laid-back, easy-going vibe in this small town city on the Gulf Coast of Florida. And they smile and say "hello" when you pass them walking down the street. Who wouldn't smile when surrounded by all this daily beauty?

Remember, too, that you're not alone. Most people who live here now came from some place else. So they tend to be friendly to other recent newcomers.

Still, when you're new in town, it can feel isolating and lonely. Here are some suggestions for connecting with other humans in Sarasota:

Sarasota Newcomers Club

Women With Moxie

Meetup groups

Senior Friendship Center - lots of activities, including lunchtime dancing to a live band, yoga and tai chi classes, inexpensive lunch, low-cost medical and dental services, etc. Ages range from Boomer to older.

Live Music in Sarasota - Every night of the week--and, thankfully, that means from 7-10PM for many venues--you can enjoy live music by incredibly talented local and nationally touring musicians at informal small restaurants, bars, and clubs. For daily calendar of venues and performers, go to For suggestions about musicians you may enjoy, go to Don't be intimidated about showing up on your own. You'll find that most places here include a friendly mix of all ages. Mattison's City Grille, the Blue Rooster, J.R.'s Old Packinghouse Cafe, Siesta Key Oyster Bar, Marina Jack's Bayside Bar and Restaurant are some of the best places to be impressed, eat well, and have fun.

Neighborhood Associations - They typically meet once a month. There's also a Coaltion of City Neighborhood Associations

Animal Shelters & Rescues

Monday, January 18, 2016

Boomers Relocating to Sarasota: House Selection & Maintenance Tips

Whenever you're buying a home, you need to do your own due diligence, but you may not know about these quirky features of Sarasota, especially if you're moving from a different eco-system:

1) For any house you're interested in, make sure to check its position on the Sarasota Flood Map. There are inland waterways that wind through neighborhoods in Sarasota, sometimes diagonally. One part of the street has houses that are required to carry flood insurance, and on the other part of the street they don't have to get flood insurance. All homeowners are required to carry 2 policies: Wind and Property. Flood insurance is only required if you're in a flood zone.

2) Anywhere there's fresh water--inland waterways, ponds, and lakes--there can be alligators. Especially if you have pets, you won't want them running off-leash near fresh water, and you'll need high fencing around your property to protect them. Buying a house in an upscale, gated community doesn't protect you from wildlife such as alligators, so do your homework on this one.

3) If you want to check the crime statistics for a particular neighborhood, you can search for incidents at this CrimeMapping site.

4) Drive by properties you're interested in right after a rain storm, to see if and where water collects in the yard and driveway. You won't want to wear waders to get into or out of your car every time we get a summer storm.

5) Some residential streets have a sidewalk on one side of the street only. If you want more privacy, choose a house on the side without a sidewalk, so you don't have to deal with pedestrians--and pets--walking in front of your house.

6) Drive-by in the evening and on weekends, so you can get a sense of the neighbors and neighborhood. 

7) This handy Sarasota Neighborhood Map shows you the names and locations of designated neighborhoods and parks in the City of Sarasota. It's a good way to narrow down the neighborhoods that are close to the shopping and daily activities you plan to do.

8) Make sure to require a home inspection before you buy a house. Make sure to check for termites, along with typical structural and mechanical issues.

9) If you're planning to make Sarasota your "primary residence", you're eligible for a Homestead Exemption, which can greatly reduce the taxable value of your house and limits how much your taxes can increase per year. More info at the Property Appraiser Web site.

10) Start looking for reliable local service providers that you will need for maintaining your Sarasota home.

For example: One year shortly after I bought my house here, I was away for the summer, and a surprise storm blew over a tall palm tree that took down part of my fence, pulled out an electric line, and yanked off the fascia on my roof. My house-checker had to scramble to find a tree trimmer to cut and haul away the felled tree, the power company to restore electricity so my house wouldn't get mold from lack of A/C, a handyman to fix the roof fascia so bugs, critters and water wouldn't get in, and to fix the fence. That taught me to have a list in place, so I can administrate repairs whether I'm here or out of town.

For your convenience, I've included photo-links on the right side of this blog to local Sarasota service businesses that I've found reasonable and professional to work with. (I list them as a courtesy. Not paid ads.)

Minimally, you'll need a lawn service, a house-checker, and a pest control company if you plan to be away for extended periods of time, especially during storm season (May 31 - Nov 30).

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Boomers Relocating to Sarasota: How to Choose a Neighborhood

If you're a Boomer looking to relocate to Sarasota, you may have spent time here on vacation or visiting relatives. And you've likely looked longingly at the listing photos in the windows of local real estate offices, dreaming of retiring to "Paradise", as we like to think of this town. 

If you've actually looked at available houses or condos with a realtor, you probably didn't know anything about the lifestyle consequences of living in any of the neighborhoods they took you to. They sell houses, and you dutifully checked out the rooms, features, yard and street of each one. 

But that's not a smart way to choose a neighborhood in Sarasota. You're not only choosing a house when you move here, you're choosing a lifestyle.

Sarasota is a city of designated neighborhoods. There's even a "Neighborhood Plan" that sets out Sarasota's goals for quality of life and neighborhood associations. (For instance, "Where urban amenities meet small-town living.") 

Each neighborhood has a name, with a welcome sign greeting you when you enter it. This is true of "developments" as well as old neighborhoods. And each one has its particular character and adjacency to shopping, nightlife (or not), dining, and access to other activity areas you need.

So it's a good idea to think about what your Sarasota lifestyle will entail. Are you a golfer? Will you be socializing at a country club? Are you a beach person? Do you mind waiting for the bridges to go up and down during Season when boats need to pass through? Will you be dining out several times a week? Is nightlife--live music, social settings--important to you? Are you a car-person or a walking-person? Would you like to be able to walk to nearby shopping and entertainment? Do you want acreage, with room for pets or livestock?

I'll give you a personal example: When I realized I should buy a house in Sarasota instead of renting seasonally, I thought I'd only consider living on Siesta Key. It's beautiful, laid-back, an easy walk to everything in the village, with plenty of live music and casual dining. 

But, putting aside the fact that I couldn't afford to buy a house on Siesta at that point, I realized, after renting on the Key for several seasons, that living here full-time, with business and personal activities located on the mainland, I didn't really want to have to drive on and off the Key all the time. And I didn't want to worry about summer storms on a barrier island. 

So I widened my search, and I looked at various neighborhoods, both with a realtor, and by driving around myself. As I did that, I discovered areas I never knew existed when I was so focused on living on Siesta Key. I also took note of the routes I'd be driving to get to and from the activities that make up my lifestyle. 

For instance, the neighborhood called Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores, which has interesting and eclectic house styles and runs alongside the Bay, just south of the Ringling Museum area, is charming and private in a way I found appealing. But the only way to drive downtown from Indian Beach is via Tamiami Trail (US-41), and I just didn't want that to be my daily, or multi-daily, commute. I prefer quieter back roads. And everything I want access to is located south of Indian Beach: downtown Sarasota, St Armands Circle, Siesta Key, Gulf Gate, and points east. It's a beautiful neighborhood, but it wouldn't work for me.

However, if New College of Florida, the Ringling Museum, Asolo Theater, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, or access to Bradenton are relevant to your lifestyle, Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores might be a perfect fit.

As it turned out, there are neighborhoods "East of the Trail"--i.e., east of Tamiami Trail--that were more affordable than "West of the Trail" and offer easy access to a wide swath of Sarasota, from the Bay all the way east to I-75. For me, being East of the Trail was a good fit. And I wouldn't have discovered it if I hadn't learned to search for a house based on the neighborhood character and location that suits my lifestyle.

TIP: It's also helpful to find out if the neighborhood you're considering is "deed restricted" or not. That will affect your options when it comes to how you present your property or make changes to its appearance.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Traffic in Sarasota: How to Get There with Less Stress

The main north-south arterial road in Sarasota is Tamiami Trail (US-41). It's convenient, because it offers easy access to many shops and service businesses. It's tiresome, because it can be busy, especially during season, and not very scenic, even though it's been designated a "Scenic Highway". Well, that's certainly true where it becomes Mound Street as it winds along the Sarasota Bayfront. It's breathtaking there. 

But from its intersection at Hwy 301, to Central Sarasota Parkway and further south, it's mostly commercial.

I like to avoid driving on 41, other than crossing it to get to the other side. And, fortunately, there are lots of parallel roads that will get you there more pleasantly. 

For instance, if you're heading from downtown Sarasota to Siesta Key, you can take Orange Avenue or Osprey Avenue south from Mound Street. (Orange Avenue actually merges with Osprey Avenue at Cunliff Lane/Boyce Street). Turn right from Osprey onto Siesta Drive for a beautiful drive over the Siesta Bridge to Bay Island and Siesta Key.

Or if you need to do some shopping at Gulf Gate or Sarasota Pavilion (intersection of Stickney Rd/Clark Rd and 41), you can head south on Shade Avenue. After the intersection at Bee Ridge Road, continue south until you have to make a right turn, go one block, then turn left onto Riverwood, through a pretty neighborhood, which takes you to Proctor Avenue. Right on Proctor takes you across 41 to the Landings Shopping Center or left on 41 to continue south on 41 to Gulf Gate & Sarasota Pavilion.

Tuttle Avenue, which becomes Swift Rd south of Bee Ridge Rd, is another handy way to parallel and avoid 41, although Tuttle can be busy in one or the other direction during rush hours.

Bahia Vista Street is a nice way to go west towards downtown. After you cross 41, on your way towards Osprey Avenue, it takes you through a beautiful old neighborhood called Avondale.

For another example, if you're heading to Walmart and Home Depot on Cattlemen, the busy-road route is Bee Ridge Road, which I also like to avoid. Instead, you can take Webber Road or Bahia Vista east to Cattlemen Road, then turn right on Cattlemen to get to those stores.

Taking the alternate roads gets you there in the same amount of time. It's just that you'll be more relaxed when you get there, and hopefully nourished by the leafy scenery on the way.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Boomers Relocating to Sarasota: A Complicated Real Estate Dance

Many Boomers dream of relocating to the Sarasota area when they retire.
Sometimes they're ready now to leave their "up-north" lives behind and reside here full-time. Others look to buy a Sarasota home they can rent out for part of the year and occupy for a few weeks or months, until they're fully retired or done with caring for elderly parents. 

What's true for all of them is that each situation is different and will require a customized plan for making their dream come true. And it really helps to have knowledgeable professionals at hand to help them execute what can be a complicated dance of selling and buying in different states.

For instance, Jane and Jack (names changed) raised their children during many happy years living in a spacious suburban New Jersey house. Now that the kids are grown and living independently, and Jack is nearing retirement in a few years, the couple visualize splitting their year between the two states where they can enjoy the outdoor lifestyle they prefer: Florida and Colorado.

However, during the past two years, they've had to prioritize helping both of their elderly mothers transition from independent living to assisted care. During this time, they found a condo nearby that they can move into, so they can realize a profit now from selling their existing large home, and simplify their maintenance costs and chores. 

But while they were waiting for their new condo to be ready, they had to temporarily move into Jack's late parents' house. This also gave them the opportunity to prepare that house for sale.

Jack will be retiring in about a year, so he and Jane will soon begin looking for a golf community home in Sarasota County. 

In order to actually move here, though, they'll need to carefully time the sale of their New Jersey condo with the closing on their new Sarasota house. While they can choose a New Jersey broker for the sale and a Florida broker for the purchase, their relocation will be smoother if they use a real estate broker here in Sarasota who already has a referring relationship in place with a coordinating New Jersey broker. 

According to Mooshi Chapel, licensed Broker Associate with Keller-Williams Real Estate in Sarasota, "I pre-qualify the brokers I use for out-of-state transactions, so I can be sure they'll provide my clients with the same level of attention and follow-up they are accustomed to in working with my team." Chapel confirms, too, that every buyer has a different set of logistical challenges to tackle in making their new Sarasota life a reality.

While there seem to be many houses and condos for sale here right now, Chapel says inventory is very tight, since so many variables have to coalesce to fit a home to a buyer, and so many Boomers are converging on this area, ready to purchase and move in.

Jane's and Jack's objective of a Florida/Colorado next chapter is taking a circuitous route -- including several moves within New Jersey before finally reaching Sarasota. Yet it's just a matter of keeping their eyes on the goal and finding expert help along the way to smooth the bumps. Within the next year, they're hoping the only "bumps" they encounter are the fluffy snowy kind they love on the ski slopes of the Rockies.

Libraries in Sarasota

One of the most beautiful and unusual buildings in downtown Sarasota is Selby Library, one of 4 libraries located in Sarasota.
Selby Library, downtown Sarasota FL

Selby Library interior, downtown Sarasota FL

The other Sarasota branch libraries are Fruitville, Gulf Gate, and North Sarasota (Newtown). 

There are additional libraries in Venice, Englewood, and Northport, which are part of Sarasota County. See Sarasota County Libraries for location details.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dining Districts in Sarasota

In addition to restaurants sprinkled all over Sarasota in various shopping strips and busy intersections, Sarasota has appealing, walkable dining districts in key scenic locations.

  • Downtown Sarasota: Restaurants with many kinds of international and American cuisine. On Main Street, Palm Avenue, 1st Street, Lemon Avenue, Pineapple Avenue
Mattison's City Grille, corner of Main Street
 and Lemon Avenue, downtown Sarasota
  • Sarasota Bayfront Park: O'Learry's Tiki Bar & Restaurant, Marina Jack's
    • Burns Square: Pineapple Avenue and Burns Court
    • Rosemary District: 4th Street, just east of Lemon Avenue
    • St Armands Circle, on Lido Key: Restaurants on every street that comprises the Circle
    • Southside Village: Hillview Street and Osprey Avenue
    • Gulf Gate Village: international and local cuisine on Gulf Gate Drive, Gateway Avenue, and Superior Avenue
    • Siesta Key Village: Ocean Blvd and Avenida Madera
    • Siesta Key Midnight Pass & Stickney Rd: several restaurants on Midnight Pass just past Stickney Rd, and more in the shopping center further down that's anchored by City Pizza
    Javier's Peruvian restaurant, Midnight Pass Rd, Siesta Key

    Monday, January 11, 2016

    10 Reasons Living in Sarasota is Easier

    Every time I return to Sarasota, FL, from a trip "up north", I appreciate how much easier it is to be living in Sarasota:
    1. For basic shopping needs, it's only a 10 minute walk from my house. By car, I can find every kind of daily or special shopping I need within a 5-15 minute drive from my neighborhood. For example, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Earth Origins, Richard's Natural Foods, Joann Fabrics, Michael's Crafts, Walmart, Target, Ross Stores, Bed Bath & Beyond, Marshall's, T.J. Maxx, Barnes & Noble, Books a Million, Macy's, Petco, Petsmart, Office Max, Pier 1 Imports, and numerous Publix supermarkets, CVS and Walgreen stores. . . all within 10-15 minutes. That's it. Up north, it seems any shopping expedition takes 20 - 45 minutes in the car . . . to each store. For fresh produce, prepared foods, plants, and artisan wares, Sarasota boasts 4 weekly farmers markets. For more elaborate shopping goals, the University Town Center is a huge new upscale shopping mall 20 minutes away, in Lakewood Ranch.
    2. For live music, there are more musicians and venues here than one can count. To see the extent of this, check out, which lists most of them.
    3. If Sarasota is your primary residence, you can request a Homestead Exemption, which deducts $50,000 from the taxable value of your house, as well as limiting by 3%/year the amount your property taxes can increase. There's also a further exemption for seniors 65 and older with limited income, as well as exemptions for widowed, disabled, blind, and veterans. For more info: Sarasota County Property Appraiser
    4. This is obvious but bears repeating: NO SNOW!
    5. Small but efficient Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) is 20 minutes away, an easy, no-highway drive. 
    6. It's only 15 minutes to 2 different world-class beaches, and another 15 minutes to beautiful and tranquil Anna Maria Island, with several more gorgeous beaches.
    7. For culture -- theater, outdoor arts and craft festivals, special events and celebrations -- it's hard to beat Sarasota's ongoing roster of fun, people-filled activities. Herald Tribune Ticket
    8. For a wide choice of various types of neighborhoods and lifestyle options, Sarasota is truly a community of neighborhoods. What I really like is that I can "hide out" in the peaceful quiet of my neighborhood, yet have easy access to busier districts with restaurants, nightlife, parks and events.
    9. Sarasota creates--and maintains--beautiful parks, from extensive multi-acre environments, to dog parks, to vest-pocket parks carved into unexpected spots. 
    10. All of the above is available within Sarasota. No need to ever get on a highway if you don't want to drive fast or far.
    I'm sure there are more examples . . . and I'll add them as I think of them!

    Friday, January 8, 2016

    Blending Old Urbanism with New Urbanism in Sarasota FL - Part II

    A few winding miles down the road from Southside Village in Sarasota FL, is Siesta Drive, which crosses Sarasota Bay and winds through Siesta Key, a tropical paradise enlivened by Ocean Boulevard with its funky shops and restaurants, leading to an exquisite wide beach composed of soft, powdery white sand that is 99% crystal. Perfect for walking, swimming, sunning, parasailing, and sunset-watching and applauding, which is a nightly tradition on Siesta.

    The Hub Baja Grille on Ocean Blvd in Siesta Key FL
    Heading northwest from downtown Sarasota, over a couple of short bridges, you enter the world-famous St Armands Circle retail district. It's a "circle" of short blocks that wrap around a park on St Armands Key. There is every kind of store and restaurant, as well as Lido Beach, a long and deep expanse of not-so-soft sand with unbroken vistas across the blue-green waters of the Gulf.

    Lido Beach, near St Armands Circle, Sarasota FL

    Over another couple of bridges and you're driving alongside the perfect lawns and landscaping of Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key, a golf-course- and luxury-high-rise-lined gold coast community with its own long strip of wild beach towards the north end. Cross another bridge and you're on lovely Anna Maria, a key of old houses and cute shops just north of Longboat and west of Bradenton.

    All these bridges and keys, taken along with downtown proper, make Sarasota a diverting place to live. Within a few miles of any one spot is another with different views and amenities.

    The urban design challenge for Sarasota is to connect at least a few of the downtown pedestrian districts with one another, so as to encourage walking and biking among them. Each district is charming, but one has to get into the car, drive, and find another parking space, in order to go from one to the other.

    Another problem for retail and dining establishments in the area is the seasonality of their customers. It creates the odd phenomenon of a downtown filled with high rise luxury condominium apartment buildings and plenty of retail, yet lacking significant pedestrian street life. It's a very relaxing downtown compared to most, but not so healthy for the businesses trying to make a living there.

    A step in the direction of energizing downtown Sarasota is the high-rise residential/retail complex anchored by Whole Foods Market. It has become a nexus for grocery shoppers as well as people working at their laptops either in the cafe within the store or at the tables outside. It's a lovely spot to grab a bite from the salad, soup, hot food, or deli counter and sit outside socializing with friends or simply watching the passing scene. There's a free parking garage on ground level right in front of the entrance to Whole Foods Market, which makes it easy.

    Looking beyond the downtown core, Sarasota is a city of neighborhoods characterized by houses of many design styles and eras, most of which are serviced by convenient local shopping plazas. The commercial spine that links all the Gulf Coast cities in this area is Tamiami Trail (Hwy 41), a six-lane shopping strip with every chain store and restaurant and car dealership one could ever need (or not need!). It's convenient and also frazzling at times. Luckily there are ways to get many of one's errands done while mostly bypassing or simply crossing it at critical spots.

    What's amazing about this city is that, from moment to moment, you can choose to be in a sophisticated urban downtown, or walking a soul-expanding white powder beach and staring out into the vast emptiness of the gulf, or sailing your boat on the bay, or enjoying a quiet life in a nice little house with citrus trees in your backyard, or taking advantage of theater and restaurants, all within a few minutes drive of wherever you started.

    Residential real estate values, after soaring for a few years during the boom, have been battered by the onslaught of foreclosures sweeping the area, due to the current economic downturn. But as the real estate folks always say, "location, location, location," and the natural beauty and cultural richness of this town are still a big draw, especially to Boomers preparing to retire and longing to escape snow shoveling.

    While the days of a $20,000 beach cottage on Siesta Key are long-gone, there are some real bargains to be had right now, if you can find the financing. With careful sleuthing, there are still good values to be found here, especially in older neighborhoods undergoing upgrading.

    Part of Sarasota's appeal is that it's more age-diverse than other Florida towns--lots of young and middle-aged families, year round retirees, snowbirds, and singles of all ages. And it has an energy you can tap into if you're looking for things to do. It's also exceedingly laid back, requiring not much of anything if you want to kick back and enjoy gazing at seagulls and pelicans.

    One other convenient feature of Sarasota is its airport, code named "SRQ": small, modern, and underutilized. It's only a 15 to 20 minute drive to the airport from downtown. Many travelers choose to fly into Tampa and take the 1 1/4 drive to Sarasota. But it's so easy and low key to arrive right in Sarasota, that it makes living here even more appealing. As soon as you're off the plane, you're "home."

    More about Sarasota FL . . .

    Amy A. Elder, Sarasota, 2003
    Patricia Ringling Buck, et al, A History of Visual Art in Sarasota , 2003
    Bonnie Wilpon, Bonnie Wildon, Sarasota-Bradenton, FL , 1999
    Editors of Twin Lights, Sarasota, Florida: A Photographic Portrait , 2000
    Chelle Koster Walton, Karen T. Bartlett (photographer), The Sarasota, Sanibel Island and Naples Book: A Complete Guide , 2001
    John Howey, The Sarasota School of Architecture 1941-1966
    Steve Rabow, Steve Rabow's Guide: Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice , 2000
    Michael Brown, Streetwise Sarasota
    Kevin C. Myers (preface), Buy It, Fix It, Sell It: Profit , 2003 (not specifically about Sarasota, but it's a thought . . .)

    Blending Old Urbanism with New Urbanism in Sarasota FL - Part I

    Sarasota FL, a lush and quirky small city on Florida's Gulf Coast, is trying to use principles of New Urbanism to weave its various charming "old urbanism" districts into a cohesive live-work-culture-nature experience.

    Blessed with a gorgeous location, nestled alongside the mid-Gulf Coast, an hour south of Tampa, protected by even more gorgeous barrier islands--here called "keys"--including Longboat Key, Lido Key, St Armands Key, Bird Key and Siesta Key--Sarasota is also the arts and culture capital of Florida.

    In its very walkable and compact downtown, you'll find theatres, a beautiful opera house, a soaring modern library, a purple-painted waterfront concert hall, a municipal auditorium, upscale shops and restaurants, Whole Foods Market, and many art galleries.

    Main Street, downtown Sarasota

    A few blocks away, across the only scenic section of Tamiami Trail (Hwy 41), is the magnificent Sarasota Bayfront Park, lined each winter season with modern sculptures, and featuring a lovely tree-shaded walking path and park, impressive yachts, and two restaurants, one upscale and one of the sea-shack variety.
    Sarasota Bayfront Park
    Several blocks south of Main Street, separated by a non-descript, pedestrian-indifferent office-building-zone, there is a charming antiques district, called Burns Square, along Pineapple and Orange Avenues, with restaurants and boutiques, an art movie house, and a neighborhood of artist studios offering monthly Friday night studio/gallery strolls.
    Burns Square, Sarasota

    Crossing Tamiami Trail and south a few blocks more, is the tiny retail crossroads called Southside Village, surrounded on one side by a lush neighborhood of old residental streets and on the other by the expansive Sarasota Memorial Hospital Center. Southside Village has been undergoing "upscaling" in recent years, and it's a delightful mix of lux gift shops, gourmet markets, restaurants featuring international cuisines, as well as cozy neighborhood bar-restaurants, bakery-cafes, hair salons and boutiques.

    Continued in Part II

    Monday, January 4, 2016

    Live Music Venues in Sarasota

    Your best resource for deciding where to experience live music in Sarasota is the wonderful online entertainment guide called It lists most venues throughout Sarasota County and Tampa Bay, as well as performing artists, with links to their Web sites, so you can sample their musical styles before going out for the evening.

    For profiles of selected local performers, check out

    Popular entertainment districts in Sarasota include:
    • Siesta Key Village
    • Siesta Key Midnight Pass/Stickney Point
    • Downtown (Main Street & Lemon Avenue)
    • Downtown (Bayfront Park)
    • Southside Village (Hillview St & Osprey Avenue)
    • Gulf Gate Village
    • Rosemary District (4th Street off Lemon Avenue)
    • Cattlemen & Packinghouse Road (just west of I-75, near Bahia Vista St or Fruitville Rd)
    Each area has its own flavor, and Sarasota's so compact that it's easy to check out the performances in several districts on the same day or evening.

    If you're looking for a print entertainment guide, pick up a free copy of the Ticket, the Herald-Tribune newspaper's weekly schedule. You can also access the Ticket online: