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The visible signs of Sarasota growth

by Roger Pettingell

New hotels, high-rises and businesses

Snowbird survivor's guide to summer construction changes

Vue Sarasota and Embassy Suites
Vue Sarasota on the right nears completion while the 18-story Embassy Suites hotel at left goes skyward.

The car carrier company is transporting your automobile to Longboat Key and you are landing at SRQ the week after Thanksgiving to spend a few months under the warm Florida sunshine. You may have done this for years. Every year you might see a new building from the window of your cab on the route to your winter home. This year may be different for you as there are many new buildings. The most notable change hits you as you approach Gulfstream Avenue in downtown Sarasota. That’s where the fun really begins.

The 800-pound gorilla in the intersection is the new Westin Hotel and Vue Sarasota residences. It might have been at the ground level when you left. Now it is fully formed, seemingly ready for guests and residents. Depending on when you arrive, the Westin may already be accepting guests for booking in any of their 255 rooms. Construction continues on the 144 residences and is expecting to be completed in early 2017. Included in the construction is a 14,000 square-foot ballroom and two junior ballrooms of nearly 6,000 square feet each.

Across the street on Tamiami Trail is the shell of the new Embassy Suites and Spa with 180-200 guest rooms under construction. There had been a small cabinet retailer on the corner when you left that was razed for this 18-story edifice that is expected to be completed in mid-2017. In all, the Embassy Suites and Westin will offer two-thirds of the new hotel rooms with ongoing construction in downtown Sarasota. The Aloft Hotel on One Palm Avenue has already opened with its 138 rooms.

You turn right to head over the Ringling Causeway to Coon Key and the bridge to St. Armands Circle. At the end of the bridge you notice evidence that the bridge had been repaired over the summer. Repairs limited traffic to one lane and added an average of 20 minutes to the morning commute. You accept that you were lucky to avoid that daily transit.

Looking to your left you see a construction site at the Plymouth Harbor of Sarasota Bay. The assisted living facility is adding 70 new residences in its Northwest Garden Building that will be devoted to memory care units, assisted living and independent living. The 150,000 square foot building in three stories is expected to be completed early next year.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital Urgent Care facility
The new urgent care facility in St. Armands Circle is part of the Sarasota Memorial Hospital system.

In the short span of your drive past the Ringling Bridge to St. Armands Circle has one more view of new construction. Where the old St. Armands Medical Center had been, a new urgent care building may be open for patients. As part of the Sarasota Memorial Hospital system of urgent care facilities the new center will have lab and X-ray capabilities to help treat patients. This will become the sixth urgent care facility in the hospital system that are located in Manatee and Sarasota counties. There are two floors for patients with injuries that are non-life threatening and will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily when it opens in October.

Depending on your location on Longboat Key you may pass the new 16-unit Aria at Villa am Meer community and Infinity with its 11 luxury waterfront residences. You will notice that the Colony Beach and Tennis resort is in different phases of razing for a new community with 180 residences and equal number of hotel rooms. What you won’t see is construction for a Floridays hotel on the north end of the island. You may have even sent in an absentee ballot for an August 30th referendum that would have allowed the proposed hotel. Voters decidedly rejected the proposal. The new Zota hotel at 4711 Gulf of Mexico Drive is expected to open December 1. The former Hilton Beachfront Resort was renovated and a new 84-room tower will be available for nightly stays.

SRQ Air Traffic Control Tower
SRQ Air Traffic Control Tower - Look for the new tower northwest of the runways when landing.

You arrive at your place, now it’s time to unpack and head to the beach. You will see that Tropical Storm Hermine didn’t erode much of the beaches. Instead, you will find a more extended beach due to renourishment projects in New Pass, Longboat Pass through dredging projects and beaches in between through daily truck hauls where hundreds of thousands of cubic sand renewed the beaches on Longboat Key.

Reflecting back to your landing at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport you may have noticed the construction of the air traffic control tower in the northwest corner of the runway system. Another sign of the growth that Sarasota is experiencing. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy.

Highlight of fall 2016 events

by Roger Pettingell

An increased activity of arts and festivals

Local venues ramp up as snowbirds are welcomed back

Aerial view of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center
Aerial view of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center

This is the final week of summer, hope you had an enjoyable season. Now we head into fall and the festival and arts seasons are warming up. Soon the snowbirds will have returned and the schedule of events increase. Dormant venues come alive with a full slate of arts. The Van Wezel Performing Arts Center has a new show practically every night with high quality performances from the touring stars. The local theatres have presented their line-up of plays and the annual festivals have announced their themes for the 2016-2017 season.

In just a few short weeks The Ringling International Arts Festival kicks off a four-day event schedule with its opening ceremony, a celebration of Brazilian culture in the museum courtyard. Performances also start on that opening day, October 13 with acts from around the world. Doug Elkins performs a choreographed show in the Asolo Repertory Theatre while the Eighth Blackbird can be seen in the Historic Asolo Theatre. These two shows start on opening day and continue for three days. Gravity & Other Myths will be performed all four days of the festival in its appropriate venue, the Ringling Circus Museum. In total there are 11 different performances of one-day, two-day and other three-day lectures, concerts and live shows to experience.

An annual celebration of Midcentury Modern Architecture, Sarasota MOD, attracts worldwide renown architects to the area in order to further their profession. The 2016 event presented by the Sarasota Architectural Foundation showcases one the leaders of the Sarasota School of Architecture, Victor Lundy. The three-day event begins Friday, November 11.

An opening reception for Old Florida, a 21st Century Interpretation will be held October 7 in the Longboat Key Center for the Arts. The art exhibition runs through November 11 with paintings by Joseph Arnegger, Tim Jaeger and Tom Stephens. As part of the Ringling College of Art and Design, the Center for the Arts presents a curriculum for artists that want to continue their education or for those adults who wish to learn a new hobby for their retirement years.

Fright Night international guests
These international guests get into the spirit for Fright Night on Halloween in St. Armands Circle.

In October St. Armands Circle starts its fall series of car, boat and art shows. The Wilde on the Water Jaguar Festival and Concours for one day is hosted by The Sun Coast Jaguar Club on October 1. The following Saturday is the seventh annual Taste of St. Armands with 19 restaurants around the circle competing for top recognition. The St. Armands Boat Show is a weekend show in the circle October 22-23. One of the most well-attended events on the circle is the annual Fright Night on St. Armands, a spectacular of sights and sounds in celebration of Halloween on October 31. Be certain to stick around for the local high school zombie dance performance to the song Thriller by Michael Jackson.

Cars return to the circle November 5. The Ferrari Owners Club of the Florida region will display 75 cars competing for Best in Show in Ferrari's on the Circle. The last car show of the 2016 fall season is the Porsches in the Park event on December 10, now in its 12th year. Veterans are honored Friday, November 11, with special discounts. For the next two days that weekend the circle will come alive with the combined St. Armands Circle Annual Fall Sidewalk Sale and the 28th Annual St. Armands Art Festival, just in time for holiday shopping. And if that doesn’t get you into the holiday spirit, the 38th Annual Holiday Night of Lights on St. Armands, December 2 is filled with events such as the annual lighting of the Christmas tree. Of course Santa will be there for the kids.

Theatre comes alive during this time too. The Wiz, a loose Wizard of Oz interpretation, will start October 12 at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and run for over a month through November 19. Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves has a long run at Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota from October 5 through January 29. The Players Centre for the Performing Arts will run the play Gypsy from September 28 through October 16. Young Frankenstein follows November 2-20. The Sunshine Boys will run at the Venice Theatre, September 27 through October 16. Venice Theatre will also be home to the play Toxic Avenger September 30 through October 23. Billy Elliot, a musical, will start November 8 at Venice Theatre and run through December 4. Get Out of Dodge runs at the Venice Theatre, November 3-20.

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Center has a variety of concerts, comedians and performances. Celtic Thunder, Doo Wop Spectacular, Mary Chapin Carpenter and ZZ Top are performances in October. Political satirists Capitol Steps, start a November series of acts. The holidays begin with themed concerts by Mannheim Steamroller, Decades Rewind, Dave Koz, Melissa Etheridge and Jim Brickman.

Ski-A-Rees water ski acrobats
Ski-A-Rees - Water ski acrobatics are performed every Sunday in their Ken Thompson Park stadium.

Since 1957 the Ski-A-Rees have thrilled crowds with their acrobatic water skiing. The first show of the season was earlier this month, held for free in Ski-A-Rees Stadium at their Ken Thompson Park location on City Island. The show starts at 2 p.m. each Sunday with this season running through November 13. You may never know what to expect from these acrobats, performers start at a very young age and continue well into their adulthood. You may even see a senior citizen or two, skiing next to a young adult. The Ski-A-Rees were honored this summer by hosting the Southern Regionals Tournament in June. This non-profit has performed all these years with generous donations at events and efforts such as the 24-hour online Giving Challenge that starts noon tomorrow, September 20.

Some of the non-profits in the area are supported through charity events such as the Giving Challenge tomorrow that I mentioned above. Last year $7 million was raised in one day to benefit 449 non-profits. This year over 550 organizations are represented in four surrounding counties. Coldwell Banker will host comedian John “Hippieman” Novosad, a CARES benefit at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre on Thursday. Last year the Coldwell Banker CARES program raised $65,000 for local non-profits. The Superheroes on Parade benefit for the Southeastern Guide Dogs organization is coming to a close. Over 50 larger-than-life dog sculptures were sponsored by local businesses. My sponsored dog, Buyer, will be part of a parade of these sculptures created by local artist Scott Joseph Moore, on Palm Avenue, October 8-9.

As the saying goes, “So much to do, and so little time to do it.” There are many events for all ages, check out our events page with 300 activities listed. And when you find the time, please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy.

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

by Roger Pettingell

What were you doing on 9/11/2001?

Sarasota will have its place in history on that day

Commemorative flags on Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key
9/11 Commemorative flags - This past weekend the Longboat Key public works department placed 3,000 American flags along Gulf of Mexico Drive as an annual commemoration to September 11, 2001.

Yesterday was a day to reflect back 15 years to the events of the day. It was on that sunny September morning that four flights left east coast airports with passengers intent on destroying our way of life. Instead, our country responded as our ancestors did. We put away our petty differences and united with patriotism. New York and Washington D.C. provided courageous first responders to save citizen’s lives at the World Trade Center and Pentagon. With what I can imagine was a battle cry, passengers on United Airlines flight 93 heroically “rolled” to the cockpit in order to prevent possibly a greater national tragedy. World leaders offered their condolences and military support. And the nation watched, many contacting their local military enlistment office to offer their support. I remember that day as vividly as millions of other Americans do.

Sarasota had a special connection to the events that unfolded on September 11, 2001. The city was celebrating a visit from a sitting President, George W. Bush. That morning he left the Colony and Beach Tennis Resort on Longboat Key to jog four miles of our white sand beaches and likely gazed over the beautiful azure colors of the Gulf. It may have been a wondrous site for Bush, a reporter friend and the secret service crew.

By 9 AM the President was having an enjoyable visit with second grade students at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota. Reading from “The Pet Goat” was on the student curriculum for the day, but “No Child Left Behind” was on the President’s agenda. It was then that the tragic events were starting to unfold. Once the attacks were confirmed Bush made a famous announcement from the media center of this Sarasota school. The photos of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card whispering the initial news into the ear of a seated President and the press gathering in the media center of the Sarasota school appear on nearly every timetable picture account of the day.

It was then that he was transported to the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport where Air Force One was fueled and ready for a hasty departure. After a wave to the crowd the plane taxied and took off from SRQ. Members of the press later remarked that the plane took off and then immediately went vertical to reach maximum altitude in the shortest period of time. Those on board said they had never expected to experience a plane take off like that.

Air Force One was on its way to an undisclosed location. Reporters on the plane were instructed to turn off all phones to prevent a press leak and cell-phone tracking by terrorists. As news media is for an important story, a Shreveport, Louisiana television station still appeared and was at the airport to record the landing. That day Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport was participating in Global Guardian, an annual exercise to test the military in a time of nuclear war. He would later fly to Nebraska and return to Washington, D.C. 10 hours later.

The Sarasota connection will be etched into the memories of anyone who was here that day and recorded in the national archives for all of humanity to review in the future. But the connection to the events of 9/11 started one year before that. As the FBI tracked the previous whereabouts of the hijackers, they were drawn back to Sarasota and Longboat Key.

Here they learned that three of the hijackers were at Huffman Aviation for international flight training at Venice Municipal Airport in the year 2000. While here the hijackers lived in a home near the TPC Prestancia golf course community of Sarasota. The home was abandoned around the time of the attacks, later sold in 2003 and once again in August of last year.

We’ve all returned to our lives, a little less innocent. We’ve commemorated those who lost their lives that day such as that held at the National Cemetery in Sarasota on Monday. Some of us have emotional scars, some of us carry physical scars. On that Tuesday morning, terrorists unknowingly brought together a nation far quicker than I imagine any diplomat could. Sarasota was, and still is a great place to live, with a vast amount of history. We strive for greatness in the arts and the pleasures of the Gulf beaches. We thrive in fine dining and boutique retail stores. It is our home.

Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy.

Higher education options in Sarasota

by Roger Pettingell

Sarasota colleges to send your children

Or take advantage of the Lifelong Learning Centers

University of South Florida, Manatee and Sarasota campus
University of South Florida - One of many area campuses offering degrees in many disciplines.

I hope you had a good Labor Day holiday weekend. The storm dropped enough water on our plants that we may not have to irrigate our lawns for a while. The winds and flooding caused some problems but we escaped the major damage caused by Hurricane Hermine. We were fortunate that the first hurricane to hit Florida in 11 years passed far to the north. We did break records with over 12 inches of rainfall. Now we can get back to our normal lives and our children can safely return to the classrooms. Our adult children will also be returning to school as each university begin their fall sessions. And we have plenty of opportunities for higher education in this area.

Within two miles on Tamiami Trail (Route 41), starting at the north by SRQ airport there are five colleges and universities. There is the University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee branch. Near that branch of USF is New College of Florida. Within a couple blocks there is the Florida State University/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training on the Ringling Museum of Art grounds. One mile south are the campuses of the East West College of Natural Medicine and the Ringling Museum of Art and Design.

The University of South Florida is separately accredited in a system of USF that includes campuses in St. Petersburg and Tampa. The first freshman undergraduate students will be graduating soon, having opened in 2013. Some may go on for their master’s degrees offered through the USF program. USF also offers certification programs and has a lifelong learning center for older students that want to take on a second career or start a hobby during their retirement years. I outlined the Sarasota Institute of Lifelong Learning program in a Monday article on May 27, 2014.

The New College of Florida was ranked in U.S. News and World Report, tied for first in 2007 as the best public liberal arts college in the United States. The school has gone on to similar rankings in other classifications and continually ranks high in the number of Fulbright fellowship scholars. It is not as new as USF, having opened in 1960, the school had an enrollment of 834 students in the fall of 2014 with 73 full-time faculty members for their Bachelor of Arts program.

Asolo Repertory Theatre, Cook Theatre and Mertz Theatre
Asolo Repertory Theater - Multi-theatre Florida State University managed, home of the Historic Asolo, Cook and Mertz theatres on the Ringling grounds.

Sarasota has one of the best conservatory for the arts on the grounds of the Ringling Museum of Art, ranked in the top 25 as one of the best drama schools in the world by the Hollywood Reporter. Each year up to 12 students among thousands of applicants are accepted into the Florida State University/Asolo Conservatory program. And for the last 11 years the director of the Asolo Conservatory, Greg Leaming, has lead students in four productions annually. Graduates of the program are eligible to join the Actors' Equity Association. FSU also maintains a Sarasota regional college of medicine with third- and fourth-year clinical training through local medical facilities.

Want to learn acupuncture? The East West College of Natural Medicine at 3808 N. Tamiami Trail offers Master’s Degrees in traditional Asian medicine, which includes programs in nutrition and exercise therapy.

Established in 1931 as a school of art with financial support of John Ringling in one of the last years of his life, the School of Fine and Applied Art of the John and Mable Ringling Art Museum opened its doors. The Ringling School of Art was chartered two years later and renamed to its current stature in 1970 as the Ringling College of Art and Design. In 2013 there were 1,364 students enrolled on a campus that includes the Longboat Key Center for the Arts.

There are many Sarasota parents living here to be close to their matriculating sons and daughters. Argosy University is one of 28 locations in the country owned by the Education Management Corporation. The institution offers degrees in psychology, education, business, health and liberal arts from its campus near Interstate 75 in Sarasota. Associate through doctorate degrees are offered in this private, for-profit, institution.

The State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota enrolls 27,000 for-credit students annually with campuses in Venice, Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton. Non-credit classes are offered in business, personal and professional development, and driving safety. Since opening as one of the region’s first public colleges in 1959, the school has graduated over 44,000 students. There are small schools that also offer four-year degree programs. The ITT Technical Institute at University Park off Interstate 75 has a small enrollment of 71 students this year. Near ITT is a branch of Keiser University offering degree programs in business, criminal justice, education, health care, information technology, law, culinary arts and baking.

Head toward Tampa and find schools that enroll thousands of students including the University of Tampa, Eckerd College, St. Petersburg College, The University of Tampa and Everest University, along with a number of smaller colleges. And when you are ready to send your bright student to college here and need a Sarasota residence, please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for a free consultation and review of your housing needs.

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  • Over 33 years as a top producing REALTOR® on Longboat Key and in Sarasota.

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  • Number 1 single Coldwell Banker agent in all of Florida for 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017
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About Roger Pettingell

Roger Pettingell of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate is your Longboat Key, Florida Luxury Real Estate Specialist. Roger provides his real estate expertise to sellers, investors, developers, and buyers in the Sarasota area including Anna Maria, Bird Key, Bradenton Beach, Casey Key, Cortez, Grand Bay, Holmes Beach, Longboat Key, Marina Bay, Osprey and Siesta Key. Search for homes, luxury homes, condominiums, investment property, development property, and vacant land and lots on the Longboat Key, Florida and the surrounding area.