Just as Manhattanites started moving to Brooklyn and turned it into the hip new place to live, Sarasotans are looking around at neighborhoods that used to be a little seedy, a little square, a little shabby, and thinking, “Hey, I could live there.”
And not only are these neighborhoods getting a second wind; they’re beginning to attract some of the most interesting people in town. They’re developing their own shops and restaurants. And best of all, while they may not have social cachet—yet—they have the greatest luxury of all: location. They got there first. All the attractions that make Sarasota such a great place to live are right around the corner—or a short sprint down Tuttle.
Looking for history combined with walkability? Check out Laurel Park in downtown Sarasota. In 2008, this neighborhood was designated a National Register of Historic Places District. The neighborhood is filled with single-family homes, duplexes and small apartment buildings, with many dating back to the 1920s, in styles such as bungalow, Mission revival, Colonial revival and Mediterranean revival. If a neighborhood filled with historic homes, brick-lined streets and trees dripping with Spanish moss isn’t enough, it’s within a stone’s throw of downtown shops, restaurants and entertainment. Residents run the spectrum from professionals to artists, and young families to retirees, not to mention plenty of pets.
While it may not be for everyone, Gillespie Park is a neighborhood on the upswing. Renovated 1920s bungalows, ranch-style homes from the 1950s and 1960s, small apartment buildings and a smattering of new construction make the neighborhood just north of downtown an interesting mix. Named in honor of Sarasota’s first mayor, John Gillespie, the neighborhood’s centerpiece is a sprawling park of the same name, boasting a lake with a refreshing fountain. The neighborhood has a diverse population base, bringing together renters and property owners. It’s also a quick walk to the shops of Main Street.
EAST OF TRAIL
This sprawling planned community east of Interstate 75 on the Sarasota-Manatee county line offers something for everyone, from townhouses to million-dollar-plus estate homes. You’ll find everyone from young families to empty-nesters living in the seven villages that make up Lakewood Ranch. You’ll also find recreation ranging from playgrounds to pools to polo, with half of the 8,500-acre community set aside for open space and recreation areas, including miles of hiking trails. Several village centers have been established, so there are plenty of shopping and dining opportunities close to home. Lakewood Ranch also has the distinction of being a green community, and since 2005, new construction is required to follow Florida Green Building Coalition standards.
WEST OF TRAIL
Indian Beach Sapphire Shores
This bayfront neighborhood in the shadow of the historic Ringling estate is filled with historic homes dating to the 1920s, along with modern mansions and more moderately priced homes. Because of its location near New College of Florida and the Ringling College of Art and Design, the neighborhood draws wealthy professionals and families as well as professors and college students. With its location along Sarasota Bay, neighbors often gather at the Sapphire Shores and Indian Beach parks to watch the sunset.
If you’re looking for that laid-back, beach vibe, take a look at Siesta Key, which has consistently won accolades for its sparkling sand. Sure there are the obligatory condominiums and manicured subdivisions, but the south tip of the key, in the Turtle Beach area, swims in tropical foliage, giving it the feeling of an old-time Florida resort. The north end of the key has Siesta Village, a compact downtown with a number of beachy restaurants serving up fresh seafood, cold beers and beach music. While Siesta Key’s population runs the gamut, be prepared for an influx of tourists and snowbirds during the winter season.