Flexibility wins the future


The spacious 4,000-square-foot condominium on the third floor of the historic Orange Blossom tower on the corner of Main Street and Palm Avenue in downtown Sarasota is for sale for $1.8 million.


There will be lots of interest in it, despite the fact that the apartment does not have sweeping views of Sarasota Bay, just a block or so to the west of the building. Orange Blossom vistas are decidedly oriented to the cityscape and to hustle and bustle of urban life in a resort town.

orangeThe Orange Blossom is a stately neoclassical building that was one of the first three “skyscrapers” erected in Sarasota when it went up in 1926. Initially, it was a bank and office building, and it was converted to a tourist hotel in 1934, hosting luminaries including Esther Williams, Billy Rose and actors in the film “The Greatest Show on Earth,” as well as rich snowbirds. In 1965 the Orange Blossom was transformed into a retirement residence of sixty apartments for those 55 and older. And in the early 1990s Sarasota entrepreneur and developer, Jay Foley, bought the building and, with Ritz Construction, turned the space into luxury condominiums, one apartment per floor, with some floors being reserved for commercial space and the top two combined into a penthouse with a rooftop terrace. Foley (now deceased) had that one himself for a while and it was a featured property on a month-long designer home tour. A private elevator opens into the foyer of each Orange Blossom residence, making every apartment seem like a penthouse. The lobby is swanky, and there is concierge service.

Interior designer Kurt Lucas bought this third-floor unit from the developer and was the first owner of Unit No. 3. He lived in it for a few years and subsequently sold it to Kathleen Mahoney, who now has it on the market through Realtor Betsy de Manio of Coldwell Banker. Mahoney has owned the three-bedroom, three-bath condominium for two years and used it occasionally with her daughters as a vacation getaway. She is selling the residence as a “turnkey” property, meaning that furniture and home furnishings are included in the sale.

The home has two private terraces (one large enough for entertaining) and a spacious media room/library that can convert into a fourth bedroom, if necessary. Special features include mahogany and marble floors, extravagant crystal chandeliers and other artistic light fixtures, a wine room, interior custom French doors in the media room and a custom pool table at one end of the living room. The homeowner has had wooden panels made to fit over the pool table, which quickly converts a sports venue into a formal dining table for large dinner parties. Walls of seven-foot-tall windows allow for maximum natural light throughout the apartment. But noise it at a minimum.

The kitchen is unique. Former owner Kurt Lucas painted all the cabinets black, and, using costly trim, made the room both glamorous and highly functional with a five-burner gas range, wine refrigerator, granite counter tops, Viking refrigerator and a convection oven with a warming drawer. A huge 18-light crystal chandelier sparkles in the center of the room. There’s another opulent chandelier in the master bedroom. A private terrace off that bedroom is the current owner’s favorite space for reading, relaxing or having morning coffee.

When Mahoney bought the condominium from Kurt Lucas (whose design style for the place was European palatial baroque), she commissioned him to relax the decor and to bring in elements of contemporary styling through flooring, wall treatments, art and modern furniture. The home today is less of a glamorous showpiece, but more amenable to Florida vacation living.

Owning a downtown condominium that puts the homeowner in the center of an exciting and convenient urban setting seems to be the envy of everyone lately — those downsizing from a home on the barrier islands or east of town, or people who want a vacation home that requires no maintenance and is located in a walking neighborhood.

The Orange Blossom is steps from restaurants, shopping, nightlife and theater, and scenic walks along the bayfront.

But, except for the newest buildings (and most of those maximize water views), the older towers have a few quirks.

This Orange Blossom apartment comes with two garage parking spaces, but they are across the street and attached to the 1350 condominium tower. For a fee, the Orange Blossom residents can also access the fitness center and the swimming pool at the condo building across the street. One pet per unit is welcome at Orange Blossom.

But what other condominiums in the downtown might offer in up-to-the-minute amenities, the Orange Blossom has something special.

You get to live in a piece of Florida history in a building that is a model of adaptive use in the city of Sarasota.


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: August 17, 2014
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