A story of key flight, in reverse


A common scenario for newcomers is to fall in love with the beach, move into a home on Siesta Key or some other barrier island, get tired of the traffic and move to the mainland. This is called “key flight.”

But a couple in mainland Sarasota’s McClellan Park is giving up that highly desirable neighborhood to do the exact reverse. Trips to the beach have them dreaming of sand in their toes, so it’s goodbye mainland, hello Siesta.


Robert and Georgia Buck have listed their two-story place in the prestigious “West of the Trail” area for $1,499,000 through RE/MAX Alliance Group. On a street of old-growth trees, the house is convenient to downtown, Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Southside Village and the coveted Southside Elementary School.

This home in McClellan Park was built in 2000 and is a rendition of Mediterranean revival. The two-story home has five bedrooms and is 4,359 square feet, not including spacious outdoor living areas. It's on the market for $1,499,000 through RE/MAX. (Staff photo by Rachel S. O'Hara)

This home in McClellan Park was built in 2000 and is a rendition of Mediterranean revival. The two-story home has five bedrooms and is 4,359 square feet, not including spacious outdoor living areas. It's on the market for $1,499,000 through RE/MAX. (Staff photo by Rachel S. O'Hara)

The couple, who made Florida their permanent residence when they moved from Pennsylvania 35 years ago, have lived in several places in the state and have explored others as possibilities. They believe Sarasota is Florida at its best.

But they have wanderlust. The Bucks tend to move about every 10 years and are enthused first by lifestyle, then real estate.

“When we first moved to Florida and settled in Boca Raton, it was for business opportunities and school for our two girls,” said Robert Buck, who has been retired for a decade. “I’m a lawyer, and my career was in commercial development; Boca Raton was a great place for that.

“Later, when Boca got too busy and hectic for us, we moved to Sanibel Island because we wanted a laid-back beach style of living. That little island was ideal, despite having to cross the causeway too much. When we grew tired of that and wanted a more urban experience, we investigated north Florida, but found places like Ponte Vedra too cold in the winter.”

Other cities, he said, were either “too big or too small, too busy or too quiet. But then we came to Sarasota and, honestly, it was just right.”

Buck said he and Georgia, an artist who works in fabric and is an experienced quilter, said Sarasota was the right size, had the right climate and offered everything the couple wanted in the arts and in city life.

“We wanted to be on the west side of the Tamiami Trail, because we had researched the area pretty thoroughly,” Buck continued. “When we’re deciding on an area, we always get the local paper for about six months and follow the real estate market, and read all we can about neighborhoods. We zeroed in on McClellan Park and were ready to look at homes in that part of town when we arrived to scout houses.”

The Bucks bought their 4,359-square-foot home in 2002; it was two years old at the time. “We bought it from a flipper,” explained Buck, “but it originally had been built by US Home for one of its executives, Rob Allegra, who is now a homebuilder on his own.”

The house has five bedrooms and two stories, which they wanted “because we were used to two-story homes from growing up in Pennsylvania, and wanted that experience again. The extra bedrooms meant Georgia could have a quilting studio, and we would still have plenty of space for visiting family.”

But a couple of years ago the Bucks began to long for quiet walks on the beach at sunset and a swim in the Gulf. And their two daughters, who live out of state, kept mentioning that they and the grandkids would like to stay on the beach when they visit.

“We began to remember Sanibel fondly,” said Buck, “but then realized we could have a better beach right down the road. So, we have identified a big, two-story house on Siesta Key, and that’s our next destination.”

The McClellan house

To get ready for their move, the Bucks renovated their big, open-concept McClellan Park kitchen last year, bringing in new appliances, granite counters and a tower of wall ovens. The cooktop is gas, and there’s a big walk-in pantry in the kitchen, as well as a nook off the kitchen for storage and use as a mud room. The Bucks have it styled with a New England-style hutch that showcases plateware.

A formal dining room is augmented by a casual dining area. Two of the bedrooms are downstairs, and three are upstairs. The laundry room is on the second floor, with an additional hook-up on the first floor if a new owner wants it. The wow factor at the entrance of the home is a double curving staircase that makes a gracious and luxurious statement.

Outside, the homeowners updated the pool area with stylish Colombian marble that replaced the concrete. They added a natural gas-powered firepit and heated spa. The landscaping is mature and lush.

Although it’s a relatively new home, it settles into the neighborhood comfortably because about 40 percent of homes in McClellan Park are now new or have been substantially renovated.

History lesson

McClellan Park was developed by two sisters, Katherine and Daisietta McClellan of Northampton, Mass., who came to Sarasota on a visit in 1910 and decided to build a subdivision and name it after their father.

Katherine, who was a commercial portrait photographer, actually designed the 56-acre neighborhood at the southern end of Orange Avenue, between Osprey Avenue and Sarasota Bay. It was envisioned a neighborhood within a carefully landscaped park with pergolas and curved shell roadways. Every lot had a bay view. The subdivision was platted in 1913 and it opened three years later, advertised as a “garden spot” with modern amenities, such as paved sidewalks, electricity, telephone and septic tanks (one for every two lots).

Initially, the lots sold in a range of $800 to $2,500. Today, the variety of dwellings both large and small, reflecting homeowner taste over the years, make this lovely area architecturally rich. Currently the taste seems to be for Mediterranean revival, with a few modern bungalows that are the result of rigorous renovation.

As for the Buck house, which is a version of Mediterranean revival, Realtor Curtis Ware thinks a family will buy it.

“The number of bedrooms, the big outdoor pool area, and the fact that the home is near good schools would argue for a family with growing children,” he said. “Or it might go to a couple like the Bucks — people who love to entertain and who want an urban living experience in a beautiful park-like neighborhood that is close to all the action.”

There are 240 properties in McClellan Park. Seven current listings range from $649,000 to $2.2 million.


Marsha Fottler

Marsha Fottler has been a newspaper and magazine lifestyle, food and design writer since 1968 first in Boston and in Florida since 1970. She contributes to regional and national publications and she is co-publisher and editor of a monthly online magazine that celebrates the pleasures of the table called Flavors & More. (941) 371-8593.
Last modified: May 6, 2014
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