If price, size, location and amenities are comparable, it’s common sense that most prospective condo buyers would prefer a glamorous new building over one that’s beginning to show telltale signs of age. Enter the condo board: the volunteers who’ve pledged to look after you. Ever since Jerry Seinfeld’s folks moved to Florida, community associations have been caricaturized as cabals that impose regulations, fines, assessments—and decorating decisions. But when it comes to spending big money, all residents of a Florida condo have the legal right to weigh in—and they should.
With several multi-unit residential makeovers under his belt, Barron Schimberg, AIA, of The Schimberg Group in Sarasota has learned it is essential to get consensus on design and budget because condo makeovers are funded with assessments. “Even when everyone agrees a renovation is needed, the problem is nobody really wants to be assessed,” says the architect. Successful remodels depend on fulfilling a two-fold objective, he explains. “It comes down to money and livability: The project has to increase residents’ property values and provide a more comfortable, livable place for them to come home to.”
Those goals were achieved in Schimberg’s breathtaking renovation at Marina Bay on Longboat Key, an endeavor that included makeovers of existing common areas and ground-floor lobbies of the three-building condominium complex, as well as interior landings and exterior landscaping. “The buildings were built 25 to 30 years ago, but the bones were fairly contemporary—there was no architectural style, per se, just clean modern lines, which was great for us,” Schimberg says. “But the common areas were sort of Deco; the colors in the lobbies were teal and pink, and they looked outdated. They needed something more contemporary.”
Since the project began in 2009, the architect jokes that he’s often thought of adding the title “psychologist” to his business card. “After three years of pushing and pulling, listening and making changes, and dealing with complaints and different personalities, it’s been an incredible psychological experience,” he says. “We’re about to move into our fourth president. Every president has a different personality, and though we started with the design committee, we’ve also dealt with different committees—and people on those committees have changed as well.”
In fact, Schimberg and his associates may put their experience to work by forming an ancillary business focusing on condo remodeling, design and perhaps even maintenance. “What we learned and have been almost preaching to people is to upgrade at your property holistically,” he says. “We find that a lot of condo associations work in crisis mode—in a piecemeal fashion, so when the balcony breaks or there’s a waterproofing issue on the roof, they deal with that as an individual issue. We’re advocating a master plan, which is what we did at Marina Bay.
“The goal is to include as many aspects of the design, furniture, color schemes, trellises, roofs, etc., so we’ll have a road map assuring that everything is consistent and continuous,” Schimberg explains. “Everything is specified in advance, everyone signs off the specified products, the cost estimates—it’s all approved. I guarantee it saves money because you’re not working in crisis mode, and you’re not spending X amount of dollars because you have to fix something quickly.”
Schimberg is quick to point out that projects of this magnitude must be a collaborative effort.
“If I am going to be the quarterback as the architect, the goal is to surround myself with experts and professionals to consult with,” he says. “We had a contractor who gave cost estimating as we were designing and coming up with ideas, so that we could show the residents and board members what they could afford or could not afford. That builds a collaborative effort. You don’t want to get too far down the road without a structural engineer, or someone who understands fire systems.” And when you’re talking about the look of the building, he adds, you can’t ignore the landscaping. “There’s an interesting garden component to the design that was part of the lobby and part of the ground floor, so Grant Beatt of Grant’s Gardens was integral to the whole project—he’s forgotten more about plants than I’ll ever know,” he says.
THE MARINA BAY TEAM
Architecture and Interior Design:
The Schimberg Group
73 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota
1465 Northgate Blvd., Sarasota
Beyond Design Contracting
1901 Baywood Drive, Sarasota