Market snapshot: Siesta Bayside Waterside, Siesta Key



A loose conglomerate of neighborhoods, Siesta Bayside Waterside, just west of Midnight Pass Road on the northern part of Siesta Key, occupies both sides of the Grand Canal and its offshoots. The four subdivisions all are quiet, secluded and lushly tropical.

PHOTO GALLERY: See more images from Siesta Bayside Waterside

siestaoneCommonwealth Drive, which runs through Bayside Waterside East and South, was one of the first streets on Siesta Key, created in the 1920s during the digging of the Grand Canal, which winds through the center of the barrier island.

A smattering of homes go back to the 1950s and ’60s, but most of the small Florida ranch homes were built in the early 1970s. Many have been extensively renovated and remodeled. There are no deed restrictions or HOA fees for the residents.

“Obviously, the main feature is the location on the Grand Canal,” said Karen Chandler, a Realtor with Michael Saunders and Co. Her listing at 612 Tremont St. in Bayside Waterside Woods, a Key West-style mansion built in 1999, has a lovely water view.

“Most of the people have lived here a long time because they love the neighborhood. They all used to meet at a bench and watch the sunset and have cocktails.”

Robert Schennum, an architect, has lived on Commonwealth Drive nearly five decades. He worked with famed Sarasota architect Ralph Twitchell for six years, was involved with building the Van Wezel from 1968 to 1970 and did residential and small commercial designs on his own. Now 83, he still works in his home studio.

He bought the place, a small builder’s house, in 1967 for $14,500. “After I got done remodeling it, you could call it a Sarasota school of architecture home,” he said.

“Commonwealth Drive was considered a sleeper street then,” he said. “You could buy properties for $3,000. Many bought two 50-foot lots and put up a house.

“The neighborhood was different then,” he said. “There were woods between Commonwealth Drive and Midnight Pass Road; it was a jungle. You could hear a constant noise of crickets and frogs, and there were lots of birds.”

Much has changed since then, especially in the past two decades when the meteoric rise in waterfront property values encouraged a different sort of architecture.

Ten years ago, for example, a developer bought two adjacent lots across the street from Schennum for $500,000. “He tore down the houses and trees, put up two tall homes, landscaped the front and sold each for $1.4 million,” Schennum said.

Now, Siesta Bayside Waterside is a mix of older, single-story homes and contemporary Mediterranean and Key West-style mansions. The waterfront properties are considerably bigger than the off-canal homes and command million-dollar prices.

Still, the neighborhood is as friendly as ever, welcoming families and watersports enthusiasts alike. With direct access to Roberts Bay, the Grand Canal continues to be a paradise for boaters. Most of the residents are there year around.

“It’s a relaxing, laid-back atmosphere that has always been attractive to families,” Chandler said. “They appreciate the proximity to Siesta Village, Out of Door Academy and the beaches, as well as the quietness and safety — with most of the streets being cul de sacs, there is no through traffic.”

Richard Stover, a Realtor with RE/MAX Alliance Group, agreed. “You’re halfway between Higel and Beach roads, and you can shoot right out over the bridge to the mainland,” he says. “For families, everything is right there.”

The amenities should make Siesta Bayside Waterside one of the most attractive neighborhoods on the key. But the possibility of high flood-insurance costs — most of the homes are at water lever — now have made prospective buyers a bit wary. Stover’s listing on Birdsong Lane, for example, went on the market in October, and hasn’t seen as much traffic as expected.

For newer houses, built 13 feet off the ground and complying with FEMA regulations, it’s not an issue; current homeowners are grandfathered in at reasonable rates.

In 2012, there were 12 sales ranging from $390,000 to $2,345,000. Currently, six listings are priced from $529,000 to $1.7 million; one sale is pending at a list price of $1.25 million.


Last modified: March 1, 2014
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