Echelon condo Sarasota

Echelon on Palm

Cue the construction crane. Another luxury high-rise condominium project is in the works for downtown Sarasota. Echelon on Palm, on the site of the former La Palme Royale bed and breakfast at 624 S. Palm Ave., will encompass 17 units—a two-level townhome with walk-up access from Gulfstream Avenue, and 16 full-floor residences priced from approximately $2 million to $4 million. Groundbreaking is planned for this fall, with occupancy by spring 2017. The developer is Naples-based Ronto Group, a family company headed by Jack Solomon and his son, Anthony. They have developed properties on both the east and west coasts of Florida and in Toronto and Texas; this is their first Sarasota venture.

Downtown Sarasota condos

Do Your Homework

Pondering a condo purchase? Consider these tips from the author of The Condo Bible.

When it comes to the convenience of a maintenance-free lifestyle, many home buyers—especially those who plan to go back and forth often between their new Florida home and their hometown, or spend the winter months here—look first at purchasing a condominium. In Sarasota and Manatee counties, the condominium options come in nearly every geographic location and price range.

We asked Dan S. Barnabic, an attorney, consumer advocate, former real estate agent and condominium developer who splits his time between Toronto and Miami Beach, to tell us the most important things to consider when purchasing a condo. Barnabic is author of the recent book The Condo Bible: Everything You Must Know Before and After Buying a Condo.

“The most important thing is to check the well-being of the condominium complex itself, that the building is well-funded and that it has sufficient reserve funds in case there are unexpected repairs. Some condominiums that are in trouble may represent themselves as more solvent than they really are. Don’t be shy. Go to the complex, stop the people coming in and out. Talk to them. Ask them, ‘Have you heard of any unexpected repairs coming up?’”

“While you’re scoping out the condominium, ask the residents you meet: ‘Are you happy with your board of directors; is the association doing its job properly, are the directors working in harmony or are there factions within the board?’ I’d be wary of condos where that is the case. This holds true even when the property is professionally managed; after all, the board chooses the property management company.”

“Consider the age of the complex. If you buy brand-new pre-construction, the chance is your maintenance fee will go up threefold in three or four years because, in order to attract potential purchasers, many developers absorb the initial costs.”

“Find out to what degree the complex is rented out. If more than 20 percent of the units are rented out, that means they’re probably heading in the wrong direction. This is supposed to be an owner-occupied arrangement. Too many rentals is slowly turning something private into something else altogether. Renters don’t take care of the common elements as well as owners do.”

Center for Architecture Sarasota

Modern Times

Center for Architecture Sarasota brings new life to the historic Scott Building.

An ambitious transformation of the midcentury-modern Scott Building in downtown Sarasota into a hub for architectural studies will be completed in time for a gala celebration in late March.

The nonprofit Center for Architecture Sarasota has spent about $500,000, plus $300,000 of in-kind services, to restore the former furniture showroom at 265 S. Orange Ave. as home base for the University of Florida School of Architecture’s new CityLab-Sarasota. According to UF, the program will bring graduate students to Sarasota to study “issues of emerging technology, culture and climate responsive architecture” as they relate to the Sarasota School of Architecture, which became known internationally for “adapting the International Style to the tropical climate.”

In addition, the Center for Architecture and AIA Florida Gulf Coast Chapter offices will be housed there, and there will be museum-quality gallery space for rotating exhibits, and a lecture hall that seats 80 to 100 for films, talks and special events. The building had housed Sarasota County government’s print shop for the past several years; UF is leasing it from the county for $1 a year.

Architects William Rupp and Joseph Farrell, who both began their careers as assistants to Paul Rudolph, designed the Scott Building in 1960 as the showroom for the Barkus Furniture Company. Clarence Scott, who commissioned it, wanted them to employ then new technologies such as precast concrete roof panels and exposed masonry, supports and columns. True to the Sarasota School style, they also built in large, open expanses of space, curtain walls of glass and generous overhangs to mitigate sun and light exposure. It was one of the last commercial or public projects in Sarasota designed by either of these masters of the Sarasota School of Architecture.

The restoration included removing the drop ceilings to expose the original I-beams, which were manufactured in Sarasota in 1959, and “are a crucial element in the building,” says Center for Architecture chair Cynthia Peterson. “Electrical conduit and pipes are all able to be run through the gaps between the I-beams so nothing is exposed on the ceiling,” she says. “This is an ingenious idea developed by the architects.” The original exterior lighting—“cleverly placed in the articulated I-beams on the extensive overhangs—also was restored,” says Peterson. “The building will glow at night like a jewel box.”

Among the design professionals who have donated their time and expertise to the restoration are architect Guy Peterson, contractor Michael Walker, landscape architect David Young, lighting designer Thomas Paterson of Lux Populi, and Jake Brady, who is contributing concrete countertops and furniture.

A gala dinner at the historic building on March 28 will mark the grand reopening; visit for details.

Renderings of the newly restored Scott Building on South Orange Avenue, home to the University of Florida School of Architecture’s CityLab-Sarasota.

1960: The year the Scott Building opened as a showroom for the Barkus Furniture Company.

Tra Ponti Villagio Rises Between the Bridges on the Island of Venice.

Soon to start rising on the island of Venice is Tra Ponti Villagio, a neighborhood of 19 custom single-family courtyard homes and four three-story townhomes on the Intracoastal Waterway between the north and middle bridges heading into the city’s lively downtown. (Tra Ponti literally means “between the bridges,” says sales agent Joe Vuono of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, which is representing the community for developer Mark Smith of MPS Contractors LLC.)

The maintenance-free residences will range from 2,000 to nearly 3,000 square feet, with prices from the high $500,000s to about $1 million for home and lot. An on-site sales center opened in January; groundbreaking is set for later this spring.

Tra Ponti Villagio is immediately adjacent to the mid-rise Waterfront on Venice Island condos built between 2004 and 2007 by developer Mike Miller, on land that originally was slated for hotels and shops. “We’re getting interest from people who own those condos who are looking for more space, and from people on the island who want something new,” says Vuono. “With all the new businesses and nightlife and cultural life [in downtown Venice], people want to be here.”

1436 John Ringling Parkway, Lido Shores

1436 John Ringling Parkway, Lido Shores

1447 Tangier Way, San Remo Estates

1447 Tangier Way, San Remo Estates

Top Sale: 1436 John Ringling Parkway, Lido Shores

A nearly 8,000-square-foot bayfront home at 1436 John Ringling Parkway in Lido Shores sold for $5,725,000 at year’s end, making it the highest-priced residential sale in Sarasota County in December 2014. Built in 2009, the five-bedroom, five-bath home has two pools (the upper-level’s is an infinity pool); enormous wine cellar; “wellness fitness center” with dry and wet saunas, special flooring and spacious workout room; and two garages that together can accommodate six cars. It was originally listed for $7.2 million in 2012. Ethel and Harvey Lovelace were the listing agents and Anka P. Peshak was the selling agent; all three are with Michael Saunders & Company. The property previously sold for $2 million in 2007, two years before this home was built.

And another big sale took place in mid-December, $4.2 million for a custom-built home at 1447 Tangier Way in San Remo Estates. The 5,000-square-foot residence is on more than 200 feet of rare basin-to-bay waterfront on Roberts Bay. Karen Greco was the listing agent and Mark McCann was the selling agent; both are also with Michael Saunders & Company. It last sold in 2013 for $3,725,000.

Sales information provided by Kim Ogilvie of Michael Saunders & Company.

Gardens in Paradise Sarasota

Gardens in Paradise

The Sarasota Garden Club’s second annual Gardens in Paradise tour is Saturday, March 21, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Six private residential gardens, several of them around the Ringling Museum area, will be open to the public. In addition, there will be a Gardeners’ Marketplace at the Sarasota Garden Club, 1131 Boulevard of the Arts. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 day of the tour; visit

The Founders Club Sarasota

Neighborhood Watch: The Founders Club

Construction is set to begin this month on a $5 million custom home in The Founders Club, signaling renewed confidence in the exclusive, gated golf community east of I-75 off Fruitville Road, says London Bay Homes director of sales Roland Nairnsey. “We’re excited that homes in that price range are beginning to be built again,” he says. “It’s helping the whole community.”

Naples-based luxury builder London Bay Homes bought 90 home sites three years ago in The Founders Club, which had sputtered in the Great Recession, and has introduced several new models. Local builders Todd Johnston Homes, John Cannon Homes and Lee Wetherington Homes also have a handful of lots among them.

“It’s a move-up community based on the prices,” says Nairnsey: $900,000 to that $5 million, 10,000-square-foot residence being built for a couple. “There’s not one typical buyer. Some young couples have invested in here, professional types, a few vacationers, some semi-retired, some fully retired. They appreciate that it’s small, exclusive, very private and very pretty.”

The active social life, which revolves around the Founders Club Golf Club, its Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed golf course and its Low Country-style clubhouse, is appealing to residents, although you don’t have to be a member of the club to live there. The club, which currently has 230 members, has a new executive chef who had experience at Le Bernardin in New York City; and it has expanded the driving range and renovated the short game area to provide a better experience for golfers.

“We’re eight minutes away from the new mall and only three miles to I-75,” says Nairnsey. “Within two years Lorraine Road will be extended south. The location will become more central, and homeowners are very excited about that.”


Number of Founders Club home sites: 262

Percentage of all homes built to date: Just over 50 percent of total

Number of sales in 2014: 12

Range of sale prices: $872,500 to $4 million

Range of square footage: 2,511 to 9,400 square feet

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