Market snapshot: Oaks Preserve in Sarasota



When Chicago socialite Bertha Palmer came to Sarasota in 1910, she bought 80,000 acres in the area and built a 31-room winter home overlooking Little Sarasota Bay in Osprey.


She called it “The Oaks” and proclaimed the surroundings more beautiful than the Bay of Naples in Italy.

Some 80 years later, a community bearing the name of her mansion was developed on 1,000 acres of Palmer’s original property, reflecting her sense of luxury and beauty.

market2The Oaks Club is a gated, upscale community in Osprey. Of its three separate neighborhoods — The Oaks Bayside, The Oaks Clubside and The Oaks Preserve — the third and last to be developed, occupying both sides of a waterway called Catfish Creek, most resembles Palmer’s vision.

From the gate on the Tamiami Trail, a winding road leads into the subdivision and past a large scrub-jay preserve. Indian middens are on the northern waterfront, remnants of some of Florida’s earliest human inhabitants. All four residential areas are surrounded by lush mangroves, wild wetlands and extensive nature preserves teeming with a variety of birds.

Bishopscourt, the first enclave created on the south side of the creek, was started by local developer Piero Rivolta. He invited in a number of custom-home builders, so the 46 houses vary in size and architectural style, in line with the building regulation that no two facades in The Oaks may look alike. There also are two townhouse buildings, each with six, two-story units.

The one exception to the architectural rule is Emerald Woods, a maintenance-free neighborhood of 30 homes located on the northern boundary of The Oaks Preserve. Built exclusively by Lee Wetherington Homes, it has a more uniform look. The two- and three-bedroom homes vary from 2,000 to 2,300 square feet and back up to preserves and an attractive lake.

Chrisi Adamson, a Realtor with Re/Max Alliance Group, and Marcia McLaughlin have a listing there at 1820 Amethyst Lane.

“It’s very quiet and tucked away,” Adamson said, “but you can also hop on U.S. 41 and quickly get to restaurants and shopping.”

The third area in The Oaks Preserve consists of 10 spacious estate lots, each of an acre and a half or larger. Only one home has been completed, but work has started on three others.

By far the largest number of living units are in The Meridian — 158 condos in six towers overlooking the bay. The front-to-back, three-bedroom, three-bath apartments range from 2,200 to 3,800 square feet. Built by Taylor Woodrow, which bought The Oaks Preserve from Rivolta in the late 1990s, the eight- and 10-story towers are center-core buildings — private elevators open directly into each condo.

The original owners bought the shell and custom-designed the interior, picking their own flooring and cabinetry. As a result, each unit is different.

Diane Hager, now a Realtor with Michael Saunders & Co., sold condos at the Meridian for Taylor Woodrow in 1999, even before ground was broken on the first tower.

“It was incredibly exciting,” she recalled. “We had a cherry picker, and I would take people up in the basket to show them what their view would be. It was so much fun!”

Some of the lower floors look out onto wooded areas. The higher stories offer spectacular vistas of Siesta and Casey Keys and the Intracoastal Waterway. Prices vary according to unit size and location. The 10 on the market range from $260,000 to $1.4 million.

“You don’t have to spend a million dollars to get a million-dollar view,” Hager said.

In fact, The Oaks Preserve is the most affordable neighborhood in The Oaks. “There are seven single-family homes for sale right now from $294,000 to $795,000, so there’s a really big range,” Adamson said.

All residents must belong to The Oaks Club, which means paying a $65,400 equity fee (of which $44,400 is refundable) at purchase. They are also required to take out at least a social membership, which has a $40,000 non-refundable initiation fee and dues of $1,477 a quarter.

Membership provides unlimited access to the amenities in The Oaks Clubside on the other side of U.S. 41, which includes two tennis courts, a heated, junior Olympic pool, and croquet courts. The 41,000-square-foot clubhouse was completely renovated in 2005 and offers dining in three restaurants. Golf privileges at two championship courses are available.

Many residents in The Oaks Preserve like to play golf and appreciate being able to return to their secluded neighborhood.

“They go and socialize, but have sense of quiet and privacy at home and don’t have to deal with golfers and mowers going by on the fairways,” Adamson said.

Residents are an eclectic group.

Snowbirds come from as far away as Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Canada.

“They’re from every walk of life, teachers to rocket scientists, doctors, surgeons and business owners,” Hager said. “As of late, we even had some families move in because of the proximity of Pine View School for the Gifted.

“The people are friendly and all get along,” she. They love the tranquility. You’re close to 41, but when you get back to your home, you hear none of the traffic. It’s quiet and peaceful.”


Last modified: August 15, 2014
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