Street Talk

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Any savvy realtor will tell you that it’s generally the artists in a community who open up old neighborhoods for gentrification and trendy in-town living. Attracted by the low rents, struggling artists slowly make rundown neighborhoods acceptable to the “urban pioneers”; and the middle class soon follows. Look at the north side of Sarasota. All […]


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Any savvy realtor will tell you that it’s generally the artists in a community who open up old neighborhoods for gentrification and trendy in-town living. Attracted by the low rents, struggling artists slowly make rundown neighborhoods acceptable to the “urban pioneers”; and the middle class soon follows.

Look at the north side of Sarasota. All of the city’s arts institutions are located north of Main Street, but until now, almost no one connected with them lived east of the Tamiami Trail on the north side.

Plagued for decades by slumlords, prostitution and drugs, the corridors along both the North Trail and Central Avenue are now enjoying a renaissance-and soaring property values. The poor, and their predators, are being priced out.

In their place are new and renovated mixed-use buildings on Central and the two new Sarasota Bay Club towers on the Trail, another 11-story mixed-use project scheduled for across the Trail and a new Publix that will replace the beloved Broadway Bar.

What? The Broadway Bar is going?

Well, no, just moving. Official word is the decades-old hangout for the arts crowd will move into a new building at Tenth and Cocoanut.

cash and the FSU connection

the dark side of the new relationship between the Ringling Museum of Art and Florida State University came to light last summer when more than $43 million appropriated by the Legislature for Ringling projects was temporarily hung up by FSU.

In the end, though, the Ringling should get all the money Senate President John McKay earmarked for it-and then made part of the appropriation to FSU to keep Gov. Bush from vetoing it. That’s half now; half later, once the Ringling raises $10 million on its own to enhance its endowment.

Before that agreement, Ringling executive director John Wetenhall told me he hoped FSU “appreciates the opportunity it has to establish a leadership position in cultural education. We’re very hopeful,” he added. And it seems those hopes have been met.

What’s old is new again

Speaking of the Ringling Museum; sometimes it’s amusing how short memories can be in Sarasota. The museum has announced a concert series taking place in the galleries and courtyard.

The idea is a fine one, but calling it “the premiere season of concerts” isn’t, as most of us with time in the community remember when “The Ringling Concert Series” was a huge favorite with people of all ages two decades ago.

who’s watching the kids?

The cops, that’s who, and in this case you can feel good about it. Sarasota Police Department Marine Officer Doug Peters has spent more than 20 years on local waters, and a big chunk of his time is invested in educating our youngsters about staying safe while water skiing and scooting around in their boats.

Reporters and cops get to know one another-like it or not-and opinions get formed on both sides about who’s good and who’s not. Officer Doug Peters is a great one.

He arrests the really bad folks because that’s his job. But over the years he’s more often been a Dutch uncle to thousands of local youngsters venturing out on the water. Who knows how many young lives he’s saved simply by having little chats with your teenagers about wearing their life jackets when skiing and having a flag when snorkeling?

So if your youngster has survived growing up on Sarasota Bay, thank that blond guy in the Sarasota police boat next time you see him.

an artist shall lead them

Any savvy realtor will tell you that it’s generally the artists in a community who open up old neighborhoods for gentrification and trendy in-town living. Attracted by the low rents, struggling artists slowly make rundown neighborhoods acceptable to the “urban pioneers;” and the middle class soon follows.

Look at the north side of Sarasota. All of the city’s arts institutions are located north of Main Street; but until now, almost no one connected with them lived east of the Tamiami Trail on the north side.

Plagued for decades by slumlords, prostitution and drugs, the corridors along both the North Trail and Central Avenue are ow enjoying a renaissance-and soaring property values. The poor, and their predators, are being priced out.

In their place are new and renovated mixed-use buildings on Central and the two new Sarasota Bay Club towers on the Trail, another 11-story mixed-use project scheduled for across the Trail and a new Publix that will replace the beloved Broadway Bar.

What? The Broadway Bar is going?

Well, no, just moving. Official word is the decades-old hangout for the arts crowd will move into a new building at Tenth and Cocoanut.

hot seat

Michael Royal is one of those rare Sarasota artists who lives here and sells his art-in his case jazz piano-internationally. You can hear him locally Thursdays through Saturdays from 6:30 until 11:30 p.m. at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, or at his Web site www.michaelroyal.com

Q. Where are you from musically?

I grew up in Tampa and studied classical piano with Jacques Abram at the University of South Florida. Played music three years each in Minneapolis and Los Angeles, two in Zurich and a year each in Tokyo and Copenhagen-not necessarily in that order. Major musical influences are composers like Debussy, Coltrane, Monk and Bill Evans.

Q. How do you find Sarasota audiences?

Basically like the rest of the world, with short attention spans. But there’s never really been a big jazz audience anywhere-never like pop with its bundles of money. Jazz also requires some personal work to get it-but there are a lot of educated people in Sarasota and when they pay attention, that’s the bill of sale.

Q. And what about the Sarasota art scene?

Generally I like Sarasota because there’s no premise or policy here, and you can actually create a theme of your own. Some years back we created excitement at a place called T.R. Murphy’s, where grandmothers, black folks, society types and kids all got involved-but now Sarasota seems to have a more lukewarm atmosphere overall.

Q. So how are you responding to that?

With what I call salon concerts. The point is to bring people personally closer to music-oftentimes in an environment much cleaner than a bar or club, often a home. The events include a lot of information about the music and composers, but without lecturing or talking down to people. It’s a great alternative for an artful evening.

Q. How do you reconcile living here with the jazz world?

It’s a trade-off. With two kids, I just quit the road for 15 years. I could have stayed in L.A., where the right calls were coming in, but decided L.A. was way too crazy nd unfriendly for raising my family. Sarasota is safe, cheap and beautiful, and I’ve eked out a living and only recently gone back to international travel. Actually, there are lots of tellar artists who’ve raised great families. Bobby Rosengarden, for example. But raising a amily is a real wake-up call-a time to do some weeding in your life.

the ritz influence

Anyone who doesn’t think the arrival of a Ritz-Carlton in town has influenced the community hasn’t been paying attention.

For example, a Taco Bell (for gosh sakes!) down next to the Herald-Tribune on the South Trail has the Ritz-Carlton motto “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” hanging on the wall next to the cash register. Glance to the left and you’ll see another wall filled with brand-new Taco Bell customer service awards. z










Limelight People & Parties

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