Sarasota Real Estate Market Report – March 2018

Sarasota Real EstateLast month, the Sarasota-Manatee residential real estate market showed an increase in the number of closed sales and pending sales, a continuation in the rise of median prices and a drop in inventory levels.

Home buyers preferred condos and townhouses over single-family homes, a likely sign that snowbird season has been good for one sector of the residential market.

March condo sales rose 9.9 percent in Sarasota to 454 and 9.7 percent in Manatee to 284 year over year. As for single-family homes, Manatee sales fell 0.2 percent to 580, while Sarasota dropped 2.3 percent to 766.

Closed Sales
In the two-county metropolitan statistical area, closed sales for single-family homes and condos reached 5,015 properties so far this year, a 2.3 percent increase from this time last year. Comparing this past month to March 2017, statistics show a 1.4 percent drop in single-family home sales but a jump in condo sales of 9.8 percent.

“With the close of ‘season’ fast upon us, we are once again showing an increase in combined sales in both counties,” said Greg Owens, president of the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee.

“Pending sales showed a combined 14.9 percent increase from February 2018 to March 2018,” he said. “This increase indicates a strong finish going into summer.”

Median Prices
Year over year, single-family median prices in Sarasota rose by 9.3 percent to $287,053 while Manatee dropped by 1.7 percent to $285,000. The median sales price for Manatee condos jumped by 15.1 percent to $201,500 and Sarasota condos increased by 4.3 percent to $240,000.

Combined, pending sales for single-family homes and condos increased by 4.9 percent from March 2017.

The decline in new listings is another good indication of the selling season ending, the association said. The number of properties put on the market during March 2018 fell by 7.6 percent from 2017 in the two-county area. Combined inventory in the two-county area dropped by 14 percent from March 2017. Compared with last year, the supply of single-family homes decreased 15.4 percent, while that of condos fell 11.4 percent.

In single-family homes, Charlotte County showed a 2 percent increase in closed sales, to 411, a 10.2 percent jump in the median sales price and a 0.4 percent rise in pending sales. In townhouses and condos, closed sales jumped by 14.8 percent, the median sales price increased 10.8 percent to $176,250 and new pending sales rose 2.2 percent, to 139.

Florida’s Market

Across the state, March’s tight inventory constrained sales and pushed median prices higher, according to the latest housing data released by the Florida Realtors trade association. Closed sales fell by 3.5 percent, while median prices rose by 8.2 percent year over year.

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $250,800, up 8.2 percent from the previous year, while the statewide median price for townhouse-condo properties was $183,000, up 7 percent over the year-ago figure.

“As the ongoing supply of for-sale homes continues to tighten, it can create a cycle of frustration for home buyers, especially those trying to become a first-time homeowner,” said 2018 Florida Realtors President Christine Hansen, broker-owner with Century 21 Hansen Realty in Fort Lauderdale. “If move-up buyers can’t find a home in their desired price range, then they aren’t likely to leave their current home, which in turn makes entry-level properties even more scarce.

“Buyer demand is high, but the shortfall of inventory — particularly around $250,000 and under — is impacting affordability in many areas.”

March was the 75th consecutive month that the statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and townhouse-condo properties rose year-over-year.

National Numbers

Across the country, existing-home sales increased for the second consecutive month in March, but lagging inventory levels and affordability constraints kept sales activity below year ago levels, according to the National Association of Realtors. Despite the increase, March sales were still 1.2 percent below a year ago.

“The unwelcome news is that while the healthy economy is generating sustained interest in buying a home this spring, sales are lagging year ago levels because supply is woefully low and home prices keep climbing above what some would-be buyers can afford,” Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said in a press release.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in March was $250,400, up 5.8 percent from March 2017 ($236,600). March’s price increase marks the 73rd straight month of year-over-year gains.

Housing affordability is down from a year ago and fewer households can afford the active inventory of homes currently for sale on the market based on their income. That is according to joint research from the National Association of Realtors and, an online real estate destination.

Using data on mortgages, state and metro area income and listings on, the Realtors Affordability Distribution Curve and Score is designed to examine affordability conditions at different income levels for all active inventory on the market. A score of one or higher generally suggests a market where homes for sale are more affordable to households in proportion to their income distribution.

According to March data, 35 metro areas had better affordability compared to a year earlier, led by Austin-Round Rock, Texas, (from 0.55 to 0.66), Syracuse, New York, (1.04 to 1.1) North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, (0.60 to 0.66) and Palm Bay-Melbourne, (0.71 to 0.77).

Sarasota Herald-Tribune April 23, 2018

20th Anniversary of The Sarasota Film Festival 2018 Lineup

Hollywood comes to town with the 2018 Sarasota Film Festival.

The Sarasota Film Festival has unveiled its 2018 lineup, which will include Eric Stoltz’s coming-of-age comedy “Class Rank” as the opening-night film. In addition, Oscar-nominated documentarian Rory Kennedy’s “Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow” will serve as the closing night film.

The festival, celebrating its 20th anniversary, also will honor Steve Guttenberg and Virginia Madsen with career achievement awards during the closing weekend.

“We are very excited to bookend the festival with two unique and groundbreaking films from two brilliant and creative directors,” said Mark Famiglio, chairman and president of the Sarasota Film Festival. “It is also an honor to recognize the contributions of Steve Guttenberg and Virginia Madsen to the film industry and celebrate their work from over the years.”

“Class Rank” will screen on April 13 at the Sarasota Opera House. The film revolves around two teenagers (Olivia Holt, Skyler Gisondo) who prepare for life after high school, teaming up to achieve their goals and make their dreams a reality. Kristin Chenoweth and Bruce Dern co-star. Director Stoltz, whose credits include “Mask,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Madam Secretary”, will be in attendance along with producer Sandy Stern.

Kennedy, whose “Last Days in Vietnam” was nominated for best feature documentary at the 2015 Academy Awards, also will be on hand for her film’s premiere on April 21 at the Sarasota Opera House. The film chronicles NASA’s accomplishments and its vital role in America’s future as the space agency celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Guttenberg will be honored for starring in more than 60 films across an array of genres, including “Diner,” “Cocoon,” the “Police Academy” movies and “Three Men and a Baby.” Guttenberg co-stars in “Chasing the Blues” — a comedy-drama about the search for a rare but cursed blues record — which will screen at the festival.

For her part, Madsen will receive a career achievement award for her Oscar-nominated role in Alexander Payne’s Sideways as well as her work in such films as “The Rainmaker,” “Ghosts of Mississippi,” “Joy” and TV’s “Designated Survivor.” The actress co-stars in the drama “1985″ — about a young man’s fears of coming out to his family in the early days of the AIDS crisis — which also will screen at the festival.

Centerpiece films include the Sundance coming-of-age tale “Eighth Grade,” directed by comedian Bo Burnham, who will attend the screening.

The Mister Rogers and Elvis Presley documentaries “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and “The King” will have spotlight screenings, as will film festival darlings such as “The Rider,” “Lean on Pete” and “Hearts Beat Loud.”

The documentary competition roster features “Generation Wealth,” a reflection on modern society and wealth by “The Queen of Versailles” filmmaker Lauren Greenfield. Documentaries screening out of competition include “RBG,” about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and “Bisbee ’17″ by Robert Greene, who previously directed the film “Kate Plays Christine” about Sarasota television reporter Christine Chubbuck.

Narrative films screening out of competition include Paul Schrader’sFirst Reformed,” Claire Denis’Let the Sunshine In” and Lucrecia Martel’sZama,” all of which earned great acclaim touring the film festival circuit, and Sundance entries such as “American Animals” and “Come Sunday.”

Many of these films fall under five Sarasota Film Festival “focuses”: Sports in Cinema, Women’s Comedic Voices, Redefining Manhood, Musings on Musicians, and Environment, Science and Sustainability.

“In honor of our 20th anniversary, we have programmed a lineup that celebrates the past, present, and future of the Sarasota Film Festival that is sure to delight our dedicated and passionate audiences,” the festival’s chairman and president Mark Famiglio said in a statement. “The selection includes a diverse group of narratives and voices that will create engaging conversations about today’s most important topics.”

Hollywood Reporter – March 16, 2018, Sarasota Herald Tribune – March 21, 2018

Things to Do in Downtown Sarasota

Sarasota Magazine – April 2017

Art, culture, outdoor adventures and more–downtown Sarasota has it all.

Things to Do in Downtown Sarasota


Stroll Historic Burns Square

In this charming enclave of 1920s bungalows, shops and restaurants, you can take in a foreign flick at Burns Court Cinemas, enjoy jazz at Burns Court Café, and treasure-hunt in the boutiques, galleries and antique shops.

Stop and smell the flowers at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Beautiful Marie Selby Botanical Gardens shelters more than 20,000 plants and some of the rarest orchids in the world. There’s a Tropical Conservatory and kids’ rainforest garden, too. The Garden Shop offers plants and gifts. 811 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 366-5731,

Listen to music at The Gator Club

Downstairs at The Gator Club, the joint is jumping with live rhythm and blues, top 40 and reggae. The upstairs bar is more tranquil, with 180 varieties of whiskeys. 1490 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 366-5969,

Walk (or run or bike) the Ringling Bridge

Join the runners, walkers and cyclists making their way over the John Ringling Causeway bridge. This 60-foot-high span commands spectacular views of downtown Sarasota and Sarasota Bay. And you can get bait (and beer) at Hart’s Landing beneath the bridge and fish from the T.J. “Tony” Saprito Fishing Pier. 920 John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 955-0011,

See world-class opera at Sarasota Opera House

The company presents four operas in its February-March winter season, plus a fall performance in October-November, along with recitals and concerts. Also home to a youth opera. 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, (941) 328-1300,

Take in the art at Art Center Sarasota

Art Center Sarasota is celebrating its 90th birthday this year. This season features seven juried exhibitions and, with three separate galleries, there’s plenty to see. 707 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 365-2032,

Get in touch with nature at Sarasota Children’s Garden

Little ones can get in touch with nature and play on fun installations at this lovely two-acre oasis. Check out the daily organized art and gardening classes. 1670 10th Way, Sarasota, (941) 330-1711, 

Visit local artists in Towles Court

Towles Court’s third Friday art walks allow gallery-goers to peek into artists’ studios after hours and get to know local makers firsthand. There’s often live entertainment and refreshments, too.

Play at Payne Park

A big, bright, happy red and yellow circus-themed playground where kids climb, swing, jump and slide to their hearts’ content. There’s a separate, tamer play area for toddlers, too, and for tweens and teens, the city skateboard park is right next door. 2100 Adams Lane, Sarasota

Take in a show at Florida Studio Theatre

With five theaters downtown under its umbrella, FST presents four mainstage shows, three cabaret shows, a summer season and improv performances. 1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 366-9000,

Laugh your a** off at McCurdy’s

McCurdy’s packs in the crowds for comics both known (Tom Arnold, Jon Lovitz) and unknown (frequent open mic nights for the aspiring laugh getter). 1923 Ringling Blvd., (941) 925-3869,

Get into the groove at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe

Now 17 years old, this company produces musicals, revues, dramas and comedies related to the African-American experience. 1646 10th Way, Sarasota, (941) 366-1505,

Watch the best indie films at Burns Court Cinemas

At our own little downtown arthouse cinema, you can satisfy your thirst for international films and a cold beer or glass of wine at the same time. 506 Burns Court, (941) 955-3456,

Catch national touring acts at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

The city’s bayfront hall presents a full season of touring Broadway shows, orchestras, dance, comedy, pop music and more, mostly October-April. 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 953-3368,

Sit back, relax and enjoy a show at The Players

This long-running (now in its 87th season) community theater presents seven mainstage productions, mostly musicals, along with a summer season. 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 365-2494,

Watch the sunset at Bayfront Park

TBH, it’s a perfect spot to relax any time of day, thanks to its waterfront location, playground, perfect-for-picnics grassy lawn, dog-friendly sidewalks and proximity to O’Leary’s Tiki Bar. But we’re partial to this popular park at sunset, where we recommend sitting back on a bench or a swing and watching the sun dip below the horizon, with the silhouette of the Ringling Bridge in the distance.

Sarasota – 8 Al Fresco Dining Favorites

A short journey south of Sarasota provides for great outdoor dining, fresh seafood, live music and often…the wildlife encounter you might not have been expecting. Arrive to some by boat, or paddleboard for hand-crafted cocktails and tiki bars, popular drinks for breakfast and some Caribbean/Southern fusion.

1. At Flounders Restaurant and Tiki Bar, the tiki bar, crackling fire pits, live music and water view set the mood. With pub grub fare like “Wing It,” “Bite It,” “Shuck It,” and “Build It,” the menu makes it easy. Just grab a Technicolor libation and get social. Or come for breakfast (Saturdays and Sundays) and indulge in one of the popular breakfast cocktails, like the Tiki Mary, a spicy hot powerhouse created with jalapeño-infused Ketel One vodka and garnished with blue cheese-stuffed olives, pepperoncini, jalapeño bacon and a Cajun rim. The ideal eye-opener. 1975 Beach Road, Englewood. 

2. Beach Road Wine Bar and Bistro is called Englewood’s jewel by the sea for many good reasons. A selection of more than 60 exceptional vintages, the culinary delights of a chef-driven menu, the jaw-dropping views of Lemon Bay—and the spirit of camaraderie that enlivens on the outside patio. How to add to that? On many evenings, there’s a soundtrack of live music by regional musicians. 1350 Beach Road, Englewood.

3. The inventive menu at Farlow’s on the Water marries Caribbean classics with down-home Southern cuisine. This fusion reflects the heritage of Keith Farlow, who grew up in St. Croix, and his wife, Laurie, who glories in the tastes of Dixie. Ask for a table on the comfortable outdoor patio and dig into some corn pudding or sizzling St. Croix seafood pie. You can also grab a table overlooking Ainger Creek, and watch Florida’s natural beauty unfold before your eyes. 2080 S. McCall Road, Englewood.

4. Keep your eyes peeled for gators, otters, eagles and other wild critters at Myakka River Oyster Bar Seafood Restaurant, which sits smack-dab on the Myakka River. Going on 23 years, JoAnn and Mike Stegenga have kept folks well-fed with daily specials, fresh seafood, pasta and sandwiches. Although most fish is regionally sourced, the walleye special is an exception, created from the recipe of Mike’s mother. “Lots of people from Minnesota come here just for the walleye,” says JoAnn. With just six outside tables, come early to claim your perch. 121 Playmore Drive, Venice.

5. People-watching is an art. Begin your life studies at one of Ristorante San Marco’s sidewalk tables. This charming Italian trattoria offers front row seats on fashionable Venice Avenue. Don a white suit and your jet-black Wayfarers, order a bottle of Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino and pretend you’re the star of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Just watch out for paparazzi. 305B W. Venice Ave.

6. Envision yourself sipping a chilled Lillet on the terrace of a Monte Carlo brasserie overlooking the Mediterranean. Lost your passport? The Crow’s Nest affords you similar bliss closer to home. Kick back with a chilled fumé blanc from Sonoma and watch the pleasure boats sailing down Venice Inlet. If you’re with your special someone, order a dozen oysters from the raw bar and embark on a romantic interlude as the sun makes its sensational descent. 1968 Tarpon Center Drive, Venice.

7. The outside deck at Fins at Sharky’s boasts picture-postcard views of the Gulf of Mexico and Venice Fishing Pier, a tranquil ambiance, an award-winning menu and wine selection and sexy craft cocktails like the Cucumber Caroline with Pimms and rosemary-infused syrup. With patio fans and a retractable screen shielding wind and direct sunlight, you’ve got it made in the shade. There are only 18 outside tables, so best to reserve ahead of time. 1600 Harbor Drive S., Venice.

8. Old Florida is alive and well at the Casey Key Fish House, a bustling waterside joint in Osprey famed for its laid-back ambiance, solid seafood offerings, gorgeous views, and tiki bar with live music on the weekends. Grab a table on the deck and dig into such signature dishes as Chef Willie Tia’s raved-about bouillabaisse, mussels slathered in the house-made marinara sauce, and the conch fritters. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent a jet ski, paddleboard or kayak right on the dock. Or wander down to the beachside tiki bar and meet some new friends. 801 Blackburn Point Road, Osprey.

Sarasota Magazine, March 2017

Welcome Back: Here’s What Happened While You Were Gone


From construction to parking meters, from fights over special events downtown to … fights over bars downtown, here’s the top 10 stories from this off-season.

The off-season in Sarasota seems to get a little less quiet every year. While snowbirds retreated to more temperate climates, plenty was happening around town. Here are 10 of the biggest stories that happened between May and October — and some of what’s ahead when season truly kicks into gear.

  1. Construction comes with growing pains

People might have left Sarasota during the summer, but the cranes didn’t go anywhere.

Developments big and small continue to move forward, from the mammoth Vue Sarasota Bay to the two-story commercial building at 2101 Main St. that will house the Puerto Rican restaurant Sofrito Mama’s.

The Vue Sarasota Bay development has been the subject of harsh criticism from residents.

Even projects that aren’t under construction are advancing. In May, the city approved a comprehensive plan amendment that will allow entrepreneur Harvey Vengroff to proceed with plans for a 393-unit affordable apartment complex at 2211 Fruitville Road.

In August, the city Planning Board voted unanimously to approve the development plan for Sarasota Bayside, the mixed-use project slated for the former Quay property on the bayfront. The plans, still subject to final City Commission review, include up to 695 condo units, 175 hotel rooms, 189,050 square feet of retail space and 38,972 square feet of office space.

Citizen concern regarding the rate of growth is mounting. A new resident activist group called STOP held its first public meeting in September, announcing its intention to advocate for policy changes designed to reduce the impacts of growth. As the city prepares to publicly review a new form-based zoning code, STOP is pushing to restrict administrative approval of proposed developments.

  1. Benderson project creates Siesta showdown

One proposed development has commanded the attention of residents near Siesta Key.

Both island and mainland neighborhoods have voiced concerns regarding Benderson Development Co.’s plans for a 24-acre mixed-use project at the corner of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41.

Since June, Benderson has scaled back the development in response to initial feedback from residents. The most recent plans include 140,000 square feet of commercial space, between 350 and 400 residential units and two hotels with 195 rooms between them.

Benderson is planning a 24-acre mixed use development on Stickney Point Road. However, the neighboring Pine Shores neighborhood has continued to voice concerns regarding the implications the development may have on traffic in the area.

To begin construction, Benderson needs the county to either approve rezoning or establish a “critical area plan” for the property. Benderson is pursuing a CAP, which is a designation the county typically uses for mixed-use developments to allow additional feedback from officials and residents — and which could permit greater density and height for the project.

Benderson Director of Development Todd Mathes took his case to county commissioners Oct. 11, but the county delayed a final ruling. At the October hearing, representatives from both the Landings and Gulf Gate neighborhoods spoke against the project — suggesting south Sarasota residents are increasingly concerned about the proposed development as the plans advance through the county review process.

  1. Yes, paid parking is (probably) coming back

Despite the protests of merchants, the city is once again working on implementing a paid parking program that would bring parking meters downtown. In May, the City Commission approved a new citywide strategy for parking management. The 73-page document, drafted by Parking Manager Mark Lyons with the help of the citizen Parking Advisory Committee, deals with many facets of parking in the city — but for most residents, the major takeaway was that the strategy endorsed the return of paid parking.

In 2011, the city removed parking meters from downtown streets because of the backlash to a previous paid parking effort. Lyons and the committee have spent the summer figuring out how to avoid the pitfalls of the past, focusing on more customer-friendly machines and a stronger awareness campaign.

“This is a much smarter, wiser, better researched effort,” committee member Eileen Hampshire said.

Although nobody showed up to a commission meeting with a bag on their head — yet — business owners have begun to voice their displeasure with the prospect of installing parking meters on Main Street. The Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association has threatened legal action against the city, arguing the return of paid parking would unduly hurt businesses in the downtown area.

“It seems like we’re making it harder and harder to shop, stroll and dine downtown,” Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association President Ron Soto said. Still, in September, the commission voted to move ahead with a search for a parking meter vendor, signaling that paid parking could be back as soon as next year.

  1. ‘Thunder’ bolts from downtown Sarasota

If you were looking forward to celebrating Thunder by the Bay in downtown Sarasota this January, then you’d better sit down. (If you read your newspaper standing up, that is.)

After lengthy negotiations with city officials, the organizers of the motorcycle festival said in September that the bulk of Thunder by the Bay will move to Lakewood Ranch for 2017. The event, scheduled for Jan. 5-8, will primarily take place at the Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch.

Thunder by the Bay is moving to Lakewood Ranch following complaints from businesses and residents.

Thunder by the Bay has traditionally called Main Street its home, but downtown merchants and residents were increasingly critical of the event’s impact. City Commissioner Susan Chapman was one of several people to suggest the event had outgrown the venue, and that businesses were suffering as a result.

A contingent of supporters argued the city chased away an event that injects activity into the downtown area.

“Every year, despite the fact that this is one of the largest, most influential charities in Manatee and Sarasota County, it became harder and harder for the charity and sponsors to deal with the city of Sarasota,” said John Saputo, president of event sponsor Gold Coast Eagle Distributing.

Festival Director Lucy Nicandri explored alternate locations on east Main Street and in Payne Park, but ultimately settled on moving out of the city. Although she said she was excited about the new sites — including Gulf Gate Village, which will host a Friday night block party — she said she was sad to take Thunder by the Bay outside of the heart of the city.

“Is it bittersweet to not have it in downtown?” Nicandri said. “Absolutely.”

  1. Bayfront vision draws nearer to reality

The city-owned land surrounding the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is largely unchanged, but the community-led effort to redevelop the bayfront property is continuing to make progress.

This summer, Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 focused its energy on forming a new organization charged with devising a master plan for the bayfront. In October, the board of directors for that planning organization was finalized — a nine-person group that includes City Manager Tom Barwin and former Proctor & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley.

Now, Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 is focusing on raising $2.5 million to support the work of the planning organization. In July, the Patterson Foundation announced it would commit $300,000 to the cause.

The organization will hire a professional planner and project manager to facilitate the creation of a detailed plan for redeveloping the bayfront, with a targeted timeline of 18 months for the work.

The creation of the organization doesn’t mean the public will stop being engaged with the planning process, according to Bayfront 20:20 Chairman Michael Klauber. The planning organization will open its meetings to the public, and a “resource team” — comprised of arts leaders, bayfront tenants, city staff and others — will offer its support throughout the planning process, as well.

“In every step of the way, as the planning board makes decisions, they’re going to have to make sure they align with the visions and principles of Bayfront 20:20,” Klauber said.

  1. Theaters set the stage for changes

Although Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 is considering creating a campus to promote the city’s robust creative scene, the oldest arts organization in Sarasota is moving from its home near downtown.

Michelle Bianchi Pingel and Jeffery Kin are overseeing the Players’ move to Lakewood Ranch.

In May, the Players Theatre announced it would sell its property at 838 N. Tamiami Trail and move to Lakewood Ranch, and rebrand itself as The Players Centre for Performing Arts.

Still on the market, the property is listed for $12.5 million — and zoning permits the construction of an 18-story, 66-unit condominium on the land. Managing Director and CEO Michelle Bianchi Pingel said the money from the sale would allow the Players to construct a larger campus with fewer technical and creative limitations.

“Our mission’s going to stay the same, but it’s going to allow for growth,” she said. “We can’t grow where we’re at, unfortunately.”

The Players isn’t the only theater in Sarasota going through some changes. This summer, the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe filed plans with the city to renovate its campus along Orange Avenue, just north of downtown.

The renovation effort includes the addition of permanent seating to the main theater, increasing the capacity to about 200 seats. The administrative staff will move into the nearby Binz building, and the theater will build a plaza between the sites.

Founder and Creative Director Nate Jacobs said the changes represented significant progress from just three years ago, when the theater didn’t even have a permanent home.

“We control our destiny,” he said. “We are in control of our programs and our seasonal shows, and it puts us in a position to thoroughly and fully begin to stretch our legs artistically in this city.”

  1. Residents protest Beach Road closure

Siesta Key resident Mike Cosentino has turned a decision impacting a small portion of Beach Road into a countywide fight for beach access.

The segment of road, located between Avenida Messina and Columbus Boulevard, has not been opened to through traffic since 1993 when the county “temporarily” vacated it. County commissioners voted May 11 to permanently cede the county’s stake in the roadway to nearby property owners, prompting Cosentino to file a complaint contesting the legality of the decision.

Residents don’t want the county to privatize a segment of Beach Road.

He cited a portion of the county’s comprehensive plan that restricts the county from vacating any road segments on waterfronts or that offer Gulf access.

In addition, Cosentino believes the decision will allow for intense development on the Beach Road properties.

Attorney Charlie Bailey, who is representing Beach Road property owners Dennis and Wendy Madden, said the segment of road in question does not allow beach access because it runs parallel to the beach.

Although the Maddens plan to renovate their condos at 89 Beach Road, Bailey said the renovation would not increase the density of the development. Beach Road property owners also insist they have no plans to increase development along the road in the future.

Still, Cosentino and other Siesta Key residents remain wary. They have been campaigning not only to reverse the county’s decision, but to encourage county staff to explore mechanisms to rebuild and restore the road for vehicular traffic. Cosentino formally filed a lawsuit against the county Oct. 11.

  1. Officials, residents get into bar brawls

During the summer, the city considered plans to open a new cocktail bar and tapas restaurant on Main Street — which drew vocal residents on both sides of the proposal.

In May, city staff and the Planning Board endorsed plans for Cask and Ale, a St. Petersburg-based lounge that was seeking approval to open in the space at 1548 Main St. Representatives for the bar hoped to be open by the July 4 weekend, but the City Commission intervened, opting to hold another public hearing.

A group of downtown residents expressed concerns about issues, including noise and crime, associated with the proliferation of nightlife venues serving alcohol downtown. During the July 7 commission meeting, however, many residents spoke in favor of the proposal, arguing Cask and Ale would provide a benefit for Sarasota’s younger residents.

The commission voted 4-1 to approve the bar’s request to use a liquor license, though Cask and Ale has still not opened on Main Street.

“We don’t just want to be a retirement community — we want young professionals,” Commissioner Liz Alpert said.

In October, we asked readers, business owners and city leaders a loaded question: Is downtown Sarasota fun? We got mixed reactions, but City Commissioner Susan Chapman was one of several people who believe “fun” isn’t defined by whether booze is being served.

“There’s a critical mass of how many bars you should have, and we’ve kind of reached it,” Chapman said.

  1. Sarasota weathers the storm(s)

If you took refuge to the north this summer, you were lucky to miss out on three major storms — though fortunately, our area avoided the worst of the nasty weather.

Tropical Storm Colin made landfall June 6, but aside from the usual flooding and some minor power outages, Sarasota emerged relatively unscathed.

Roads flooded during the storms this summer, but Sarasota avoided real disaster.

The next threat came in late August, when Tropical Storm Hermine took a northwest turn and headed for Florida’s Big Bend region. The storm, later upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, stayed north of the Tampa Bay area, but Sarasota wasn’t spared entirely.

Heavy rains flooded streets, and more than 20,000 residents lost power during the storm. Wastewater facilities throughout Sarasota County reached capacity late in the day Sept. 1, which prompted county staff to release partially treated wastewater into Siesta Key’s Grand Canal.

That procedure is a standard technique to avoid an uncontrolled spill during major storms, according to David Cash, the public utilities division manager.

Still, residents near the facility raised concerns about the wastewater, arguing that the county should have notified them of the incident.

In total, the county estimated $700,000 in damage resulted from the storm.

As hurricane season waned in early October, the gulf had one last surprise up its sleeve as Hurricane Matthew moved rapidly toward Florida. Although projections showed the hurricane largely impacting the state’s east coast, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for all Florida counties Oct. 3.

Besides some rain, the Sarasota area escaped the brunt of the hurricane.

  1. Sand storm continues on Lido, Siesta

Unfortunately, the ongoing dispute between Lido Key and Siesta Key regarding plans to dredge Big Pass wasn’t settled while you were gone.

The city is still working with the Army Corps of Engineers in an effort to use sand from Big Pass to replenish critically eroded portions of the Lido shoreline.

Siesta residents remain concerned about the project’s potential impact on the shoreline to the south. One big ruling should be coming soon, though.

The eroded Lido Key shoreline showed signs of wear following inclement weather. After a back-and-forth between the Army Corps and Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state accepted the application to conduct the dredging project in October. That gave the FDEP 60 days to either deny the application or announce its intent to issue permits for the project.

Even though a decision from the state could be near, there are still several hurdles. Most significantly, the group Save Our Siesta Sands 2 has said it plans to file a legal challenge to the project if the FDEP intends to issue a permit.

Lido residents continue to be anxious about the progress of the proposed project, particularly after this summer’s storms took their toll on the shoreline.

Observer, November 10, 2016

Marina Jack wins ‘National Marina of the Year’

marina jack-downtown-sarasota“What struck me most about Marina Jack was how much it had changed over the last 15 years or so, continuing to evolve when many marinas were struggling with the economy,” said Anna Townshend, editor of Marina Dock Age Magazine.”

Marina Jack has been chosen as the 2015 “National Marina of the Year” by “Marina Dock Age” magazine. The award is given each year to one marina with under 250 slips and one marina with more. Marina Jack won in the large marina category.

Marina Jack has 316 wet and dry slips, a full-service fuel dock, ship’s store and on-site yacht services department. It can accommodate mega-yachts up to 228 feet in length on Sarasota Bay.

The business also offers a waterfront restaurant of the same name overlooking Sarasota Bay.

“This award is truly a testament to, not only our ownership, but our staff and customers,” said Sam Chavers, Marina Jack’s director of marina operations, in a statement on Monday.

“We’re honored and proud to represent the marina industry, the city of Sarasota and our community with this nationally recognized distinction. Our business plan has always been to create points of difference for the customer in order to build one of the best marinas in the United States, and this award exemplifies our efforts towards that goal.”

Marina Jack’s submission highlighted that it is partnership between public and private sectors; its strong ties in community events; its experienced staff; its industry involvement with boat shows and local brokerage affiliations; the development of the city of Sarasota’s first mooring field; and its certification as a clean marina for the past 12 consecutive years.

“What struck me most about Marina Jack was how much it had changed over the last 15 years or so, continuing to evolve when many marinas were struggling with the economy,” said Anna Townshend, editor of Marina Dock Age Magazine. “The marina invested a lot of money in its facilities, but it also listened to its customers and partnered with the city of Sarasota on important projects. ”

“The growth and success at Marina Jack over the last 10 years is no surprise, when you read about all the marina has done to get there.” Townshend said. “The hard work is important, but each facility needs the right vision.”

Chavers and owner Robert L. Soran accompanied by the Marina Jacks’ management team to accept the award at the inaugural Docks Expo industry conference in St. Louis this month.

This year’s small marina winner was the Harbour Town Yacht Basin in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

HeraldTribune 12/7/2015

Independence Day Celebrations in Sarasota

july4th-SarasotaUpcoming Independence Day Celebrations July 4, 2015


From downtown Sarasota and spectacular fireworks over Sarasota Bay, to Siesta Key and Longboat Key, live music, food, a parade and more will assure there’s something fun for everyone to enjoy.


Powerboats by the Bay at Centennial Park
Part of the Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix Boat Festival
10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Free admission and live entertainment


An American Tapestry
Gloria Musicae
4:30 p.m. First United Methodist Church, 104 S. Pineapple Ave


Fireworks Spectacular over Sarasota Bayfireworks - Downtown Sarasota 
Bayfront Park and Island Park.
9:00 p.m.


The 25th Annual 4th of July Fireworks Display over Siesta Key
On Siesta Key’s magnificent beaches – spectacular fireworks over the Gulf of Mexico.


Tropical Sarasota Fourth of July
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Get ready for Barbecue and Ice Cream
6 p.m.
Bring chairs/blankets to view the Fireworks over Sarasota Bay


Longboat Key Freedom Fest Parade
9 a.m
Bay Isles Road
Kids, pets and decorated bicycles adorn the parade. Food, games for the children and more at Bicentennial Park


Sarasota Sailing Squadron’s Liberty Day Regatta and Family Festival
City Island
5:00 p.m.
Great family fun with a water slide, live music and more followed by the Bayfront Fireworks

Van Wezel Beats St. Armands as Tourism Destination


SARASOTA – Move over, St. Armands Circle. The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall ranked as the No. 1 attraction in Sarasota County from January through March — the so-called “high season” — for the first time, the county’s tourism agency says.

St. Armands Circle — Lido Key’s premier destination for shopping and dining, just steps away from Sarasota’s sugary white sand beach and emerald Gulf waters — was beat out by the Van Wezel as the most visited attraction.

Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota, the county’s tourism agency, credits the change to the Van Wezel’s impressive programming this year.

“Every show at the Van Wezel this year was awesome,” Haley said. “It’s very exciting, as we’ve really pushed the cultural amenities of Sarasota in our marketing plans.”
Visit Sarasota regularly conducts visitor-intercept studies in which it asks tourists to list which attractions they visited during their stay.

It was a close competition.
Van Wezel was at the top, with 36 percent of visitors in the three-month period, while St. Armands Circle was around 35 percent. The new Mall at University Town Center was 30 percent. “I think the key is that the Van Wezel offers diversity,” said Mary Bensel, executive director of the Van Wezel. “We’re showing something different here every night that is of interest to all sorts of people, from concerts that appeal to younger people, to music and dance and our educational programs.”

The hall held performances of the musical “Jersey Boys” and more recently comedian Kathy Griffin.
The Van Wezel also offers performances by the Sarasota Orchestra and Sarasota Ballet and is home to the Ringling College of Art & Design’s Town Hall series.

Other statistics

Tourists from the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., region came to Sarasota County in record numbers this year, overtaking New York as the No. 1 source of visitors to Sarasota, the tourism agency reported.
Nearly 26,000 visitors from the Mid-Atlantic region came to Sarasota County from January through March, thanks in part to the Baltimore Orioles, which plays the spring training season at Ed Smith Stadium.

The number of visitors this year increased 128 percent from the 11,000 people who came from Baltimore and Washington in the same period last year.

“The sustained investment from our partnership with the Baltimore Orioles has really paid off,” Haley said. “This performance in the Mid-Atlantic region shows the benefits of the Orioles providing more than a million dollars of advertising and promotion annually in the D.C. and Baltimore area each of the last six years. It is great to see it be this successful.”

The 110,000 fans who attended the 2015 spring training season was a record for the franchise.

“The breadth and economic impact of the marketing partnership between VSC and the Orioles continues to be unprecedented in Major League Baseball,” Orioles spokesman Greg Bader said. “Our goal has always been to bring visitors from the Mid-Atlantic region to the greater Sarasota area, but we never imagined they would so quickly constitute the largest number of visitors to the region during the winter months.”

The Orioles’ overall economic impact on the region is more than $59 million, an analysis by Sarasota County government concluded.


Sarasota Herald Tribune May 8, 2015

Ringling College Expansion – New Art Museum

Ringling-Expansion-SarasotaRingling College begins major construction on new art museum in Sarasota

The adage, “If you build it, they will come,” has taken multiple meanings for the Ringling College of Art and Design’s ongoing construction of the new Sarasota Museum of Art/SMOA facility. Today major renovation began in the historic Sarasota High School building. And the “they” for Ringling College are not only artists and patrons, but also an executive director.

“The Bash!” will be held on Sunday, Jan 18 on the high school grounds

The SMOA Board commenced a search in concert with the ongoing structural improvements of the space for an executive director to operate the space once the space is finished. Once announced, the new executive director will serve as the figurehead of the new institution.

Structurally, the completion and revamping of the historic Sarasota High School will not affect the architectural or structural integrity of the landmark high school building. The old high school will be transformed into a state of the art exhibition space. With approximately 60,000 square feet, 110-seat auditorium, sculpture court, cafes, classrooms and studios for Ringling College classes and various educational outlets. The Sarasota Museum of Art is projected to open in the first quarter of 2016 and aims to be an enveloping laboratory of artistic expression and learning. It will be an integral component of the Ringling College’s already extensive campus.

To showcase to the Sarasota community the renovation progress, celebrate donors and fundraisers, and to look at what lies ahead, SMOA announced today a winter celebration. “The Bash!” will be held on Sunday, Jan 18 on the high school grounds. “The Bash!” will celebrate the approximately $22.5 million raised and constant support for Sarasota’s future home for contemporary art. 11/2014

Nik Wallenda’s Chicago Tightrope Walk – November 2, 2014

Nik Wallenda plans to arrive in Chicago on Wednesday to prepare for his tightrope walk across the Chicago River this weekend, a variety of restrictions are being announced, ranging from bridge closures to a ban on drones.

Wallenda, 35, has spent the past three weeks practicing in his hometown of Sarasota, Fla., where he rehearsed on the same rigging that will be used during his stunt Sunday evening. He has often practiced at dusk and employed wind machines to help simulate the conditions he may find here.

A seventh-generation member of the famed Flying Wallendas, he is slated to begin his walk at 6 p.m. and finish within two hours. He repeatedly has said he will not use a harness or a net.

Organizers are expected to cancel the event if winds exceed 50 mph. Current forecasts call for a high of 49 degrees Sunday and wind speeds around 14 mph.

I have trained immensely here in Sarasota and am more than prepared physically and ready to go,” he told reporters. “But the unknowns are, of course, Mother Nature, and that’s really the one thing that we can’t control. I do my best to train in it here in ‘real world’ weather … so I’m feeling very, very confident.”

Wallenda plans to walk more than two city blocks — uphill at a 15-degree angle — between the 534-foot-tall Marina City west tower and the 635-foot-tall Leo Burnett Building. He then will ride an elevator down to the street and return to the west tower, where he plans to be blindfolded as he crosses to the east tower on a tightrope.

Marina City residents have received a set of rules in advance of the stunt, including restrictions on parking and the number of visitors allowed. Residents are also barred from using drones or laser pointers, blaring music, grilling, yelling or taking pictures with flash cameras during Wallenda’s walk.

We are all very excited to be a part of this historic event,” a letter from building managers states. “Marina City will be on the world stage and we want to make a favorable impression, ensure your safety and that of Nik Wallenda and his crew.”

The letter warns that any violations will “be dealt with severely.”

Spectators also will face restrictions, as the city plans to close bridges at State Street and Dearborn Street from 5 p.m. Sunday to midnight. Wacker Drive will be closed on the south side of the river between Clark Street and Wabash Avenue during that same time.

The river will be closed to watercraft from 6 to 8 p.m.

The city has designated two public viewing areas along the south side of the river. The spots will be on Wacker Drive from Clark Street to Dearborn Street, entering from Clark, and Wacker Drive from Wabash Street to State Street, entering from Wabash.

In preparation for the event, the city also will close Wacker Drive from Dearborn Street to State Street from 9 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday. The Dearborn Street and State Street bridges also will shut down during that time for the setup of stage and production areas.