Central Avenue, the oddly named street that runs north from
During the past couple of years, Central has started to come to life, welcoming restaurants, art galleries, some unusual shops and social service agencies. A new sense of energy enables the visitor to see past the remaining empty storefronts, unattractive business buildings and vacant lots toward a future totality.
What matters now is the way in which the streetscape is consistent in scale and placement as it progresses from
Although some of the new buildings are higher than their older cousins, there are no blatant breaches of vertical alignment. Most structures meet the sidewalk at the property line, providing the pedestrian a pleasing sense of scale and containment, particularly as much of the street is graced with arcades and lined with what will grow to be a tree canopy if allowed to mature.
Central Avenue begins at Five Points, where it’s flanked at first by the massive
A few distinctly ordinary relics of the past line the street as it approaches and crosses Fruitville, but soon you see a group of attractive home-decorating shops under the awning of a 1930s era building now painted a glowing terra cotta. At the intersection with
Still, the scale of the new building is appropriate, even if the color scheme is not. On the west side of Fifth, a low structure of uncertain age now houses some trendy architects, while a restored church is partially occupied by another. Across the street, on the east end of Fifth, a snazzy red frame has been attached to a geometric pair of white buildings, one of which now houses the art gallery of Allyn Gallup, known for his uncompromising support of modern art and architecture.
Back on Central, the Sarasota Olive Oil Company and Derek’s Casual Cuisine have staked out a new frontier in providing unusual food and a convivial atmosphere to those who venture north of Fruitville. The recycled buildings of the Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences add a raffish air to the street, leading toward the reborn garage that is Home Resource, selling cutting-edge furniture and furnishings in a thoroughly industrial setting. As you proceed north, the imposing new headquarters of Planned Parenthood, designed by ADP, is nearing completion. Its colliding shapes and colors, some geometric, some sensuously curved, are refreshing and modern without any hint of threat, appropriate to its future clientele.
An attractive police department substation and resource center, near the historic
Central Avenue hasn’t quite made it yet, but it’s on its way to assuming an interesting identity: a somewhat gritty street, full of real life and character, not just a pretty postcard for the New Urbanism. Realizing that vision is important, not only for Central itself, but also for the entire
With any luck, Central will soon justify its name.