Market snapshot: The closing of Warm Mineral Springs



The community surrounding Warm Mineral Springs has a good location near two major highways, and is not too far from the Gulf beaches. Houses are affordable, there are plenty of available rental homes and low-cost vacant lots.

The roads are in good shape and uncrowded. There are stands of shade trees, and wildlife can be seen by the roads.

warmturtAnd then there’s one of North America’s most desirable “natural wellness experiences” — the springs itself. Fabled as Ponce de Leon’s sought-after “fountain of youth,” the springs has been a gathering spot for 10,000 years, and really took off in popularity in the late 1950s as scientists discovered signs of early man and the health benefits of Warm Mineral Springs were widely publicized.



Sadly for the community’s landlords and home sellers, Warm Mineral Springs also is in the midst of an economic crisis. As the rest of the region enjoys a real estate market rebound, the “temporary” closing last summer of the Warm Mineral Springs attraction — while Sarasota County and the City of North Port debate its management and possible redevelopment — has put the brakes on real estate activity in the unpretentious neighborhood.

This week, there was some movement on the issue. Sarasota County’s commissioners agreed to search for a short-term operator who would manage the springs until September 2014. Then, perhaps sooner, a long-term operator would take control. The North Port City Commission suggested the city and county, co-owners of the facility since 2010, pay for a hydrological study and devise a competitive selection process for the long-term operator while also hiring a short-term manager.

February seems to be the earliest the springs could reopen. In the meantime, the surrounding real estate market is “very slow due to the closure of the springs,” said broker Ivan Shumeiko, a member of Warm Mineral Springs’ sizable Ukrainian community. “It was OK before that; it had its ups and downs, like all real estate in this area. But people just don’t want to spend any money. They are afraid they are going to close it (the springs) forever. There is uncertainty, so no one is buying.

“I haven’t sold a lot in a year,” Shumeiko added. He estimated that vacant lots not on a waterway have fallen to about $6,000 in value — if any of them were selling.

“Before that I would sell, in the slowest years, 2011-12, 12 to 14 lots in Warm Mineral Springs, which is a very small area. And the market was not great for vacant land at the time. When the news started circulating that they might close this place, people started backing away.”

warmmainHomeowners are reluctant to put their houses on the market, too, said the broker. Only about 16 properties are for sale.

At the same time, For Rent signs are sprouting in front yards as investor-landlords, many of them relying on rentals for retirement income, have watched demand fall.

“Rentals are completely dead. No one comes,” said Shumeiko. “It is just a spring, but it was creating jobs. There was a micro-economy around this lake, and now it’s almost dead.”

The springs, a sinkhole more than 200 feet deep, is especially popular with Eastern Europeans.

“They just swear by it,” said Shumeiko. “They say it is the real deal. I know a man who bought a few lots and built a home just because it cured his wife’s psoriasis. He had been all over the world and came here on a doctor’s recommendation.”

The community is the epitome of affordable housing. Many of the houses are simple block homes from the 1960s to ’80s and are sparsely landscaped. Some are in outright disrepair, while a good number of newer houses present themselves well.

It is common to hear Russian and Polish spoken in the local restaurants. The large Ukrainian community has a beautiful church, St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, in North Port.

When Shumeiko moved to Warm Mineral Springs 13 years ago, he worked for Sam Herron, who owned the springs and hired architect Victor Lundy to design both the Warm Mineral Springs Motel. Almost every lot buyer was a Ukrainian from Canada or New York or Pennsylvania, he said.

Many residents are irate over the dispute by Sarasota County and the City of North Port over the fate of Warm Mineral Springs. “I don’t know why they couldn’t keep basic services just for the swimming. There would be 200 to 300 people a day there,” said Shumeiko.

“There are tons of people who moved here because of the spring. They would buy these yearly passes for $900 to $1,200 a year, and they would go four times a week. Or maybe every day. It was a whole culture around this lake. This is a nice thing we have here; it is unfortunate that county and city can’t get together and figure this out and open it up for people.”

Houses on the market, most with two or three bedrooms and one or two baths in about 1,780 square feet on average, are priced at about $90 to $110 a square foot. List prices range from $95,000 to $320,000 for a house of 2,217 square feet.

Most recent sales have been for $50 to $80 a square foot.


Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: December 14, 2013
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