Market snapshot: Colonial Gables, Sarasota

A renovated and beautifully landscaped house in Colonial Gables. (Staff photo / Harold Bubil)

A renovated and beautifully landscaped house in Colonial Gables. (Staff photo / Harold Bubil)

One of the best locations for viewing Christmas lights is Colonial Gables, a small community just off Bee Ridge Road near Interstate 75. If you take the Holiday Tour of Lights trolley, the neighborhood is one of its regular stops. Otherwise you’ll have to make the trek yourself — but you won’t be disappointed.

Why this modest subdivision puts on such a light show each year is something of a mystery. The neighborhood is an affordable “starter” community — most of the homes are valued around $150,000 — that is popular with first-time owners and young families. Perhaps it’s because a good number of residents, retirees who have lived there since its origin in the early 1970s, started the holiday-light tradition and keep it going.

Whatever the reason, it’s a splendid display, and visiting is a good way to get into the holiday spirit.

CLICK HERE to see a photo gallery of images from Colonial Gables

Colonial Gables is actually part of a larger community, Ridgewood Estates, which dates from the 1960s. A decade later, as Billy Springer and his Ridgewood Building & Development Co. continued to build out the community, the growing neighborhood east of Honore Avenue formed a separate homeowners’ association. Springer later created Colonial Oaks, Woodbridge and The Grove, and currently builds single-family homes in places like Park Trace, The Hammocks and the Villages at Pinetree.

In Colonial Gables, Springer offered five models, all of them Florida ranch houses. Only three residences, all two-story structures, were not built by him. Because he saved as many of the existing trees as possible, the neighborhood has an old, established feel, with lush foliage and large oaks, Southern and Norfolk pines and mature palm trees throughout. Two large ponds, one completely surrounded by homes, the other bordering one of the streets, are attractive additions.

Today, the neighborhood has 625 homes, bordered by Webber Street and Bee Ridge Road to the north and south, Honore Avenue to the west and Kings-wood Drive to the east. Voluntary HOA fees of $20 a year go toward upkeep of the four entrances and the median strip on Woodmont Drive, which bisects the neighborhood, as well as a monthly newsletter. The only deed restrictions are the codes enforced by the county.

Owners have added on to their homes, renovated and put in swimming pools. They’ve landscaped and painted their residences in different styles and colors. There are paver and concrete driveways, houses with decorative shutters next to the windows and a variety of facades. As a result, the neighborhood has a lived-in feel and doesn’t look cookie-cutter.

Jack Whittington, a Realtor with Wagner Realty, has lived in Colonial Gables since 1978, when he bought his house for $38,000. “It was reasonably priced, and the community had central water, sewer, sidewalks and street lights, and the bus route was close,” he said.

Whittington remembers when Bee Ridge Road was two lanes and the only grocery store was a Winn-Dixie at McIntosh Road, two miles away. Today, shops, banks, restaurants and grocery stores are within walking distance. Doctors Hospital is just to the east, and Lowe’s, The Home Depot and Walmart stores on Cattlemen Road are not much farther. “It feels like a small village,” Whittington said.

The nearby entrance to I-75 provides convenient access to Lakewood Ranch and south county, and the completed stretch of Honore Road now connects directly to Fruitville Road, with five roundabouts along the way. At the same time, the Siesta Key beaches and downtown Sarasota are only 20 minutes by car.

For families with young children, Brentwood Elementary School is within walking distance, and a number of youngsters make the trek there and back on foot or by bike or skateboard. Other district schools are McIntosh Middle and Sarasota High.

Because the upper section of Phillippi Creek runs along the northeastern border of the neighborhood, much of Colonial Gables lies in a flood zone. In the early 1990s, water from two large tropical storms ended up in the homes lying in the lowest sections. But since the county excavated the celery fields east of I-75 for water runoff and installed larger drainage pipes, there have been no problems.

Although the neighborhood is still affordable, property values are on the rise. Since January of this year, they have increased by 8 percent, with the average list price climbing to $140,000. Altogether, 29 properties sold in 2013, ranging in price from $69,000 to $210,000.

Currently, only seven properties are on the market, including one “for sale by owner” listing, from $150,000 to $195,000.

For first-time buyers, Colonial Gables is a good bet. “Affordable, great location, friendly — and you can’t beat it for the price,” as Whittington put it.


Last modified: December 22, 2013
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