Market snapshot: Hidden Forest in Sarasota


Realtors like to refer to neighborhoods as "tucked away," "nestled" and "hidden gems" to suggest intimacy and privacy. Hidden Forest, living up to its name, suits those descriptive terms more than most communities.

Many of the properties in Hidden Forest have interesting landscapes with planted areas complementing the lawns. Staff photo / Harold Bubil

Many of the properties in Hidden Forest have interesting landscapes with planted areas complementing the lawns. Staff photo / Harold Bubil

The small enclave of homes lies east of Lockwood Ridge Road between Kensington Park and DeSoto Lakes, but even if you happen to drive past it, you're not likely to realize it's there. The two unassuming side streets -- Hidden Forest Drive and Hidden Forest Way -- that provide entry into the neighborhood off Mink Road don't have signs to provide clues of its existence.

Most people won't know where Mink Road is, either, having little occasion to drive along the winding connection between DeSoto Road to the north and Gocio Road to the south.

But once you enter into Hidden Forest, you'll find yourself enchanted by a most unusual neighborhood. Developed in the late 1970s, the subdivision consists of 81 one-acre lots, but a number of residents bought more than an acre before building their homes. All but six of the houses were finished by 1984; the most recent construction stems from 2001. Homes range in size from 1,500 to 6,000 square feet, with market values from about $200,000 to $800,000 for all but the largest home.

Veronica Foster, who has lived in Hidden Forest for 35 years, appreciates the spaciousness. "I love living on a big lot," she says. "We were one of the first houses in the neighborhood. I have planted so many trees that I treasure, and I've enjoyed watching how they grow." She adds, laughing, "We have seasoned it well."

Many of the homes are set back, concealed among huge oaks and pines and ample shrubbery. You can glimpse Florida ranch-style houses, two-story residences and even a few examples of modern architecture among the lush greenery. There are no sidewalks, adding to the sense of being deep in the woods.

In Hidden Forest, good stands of saw palmetto make good neighbors. Staff photo / Harold Bubil

In Hidden Forest, good stands of saw palmetto make good neighbors. Staff photo / Harold Bubil

Alex Krumm, a broker-associate with Re/Max Alliance Group, knows the neighborhood well. His current listing at 4417 Mink Road, on a corner lot, is surrounded by giant trees. "It is one of the most unique properties I have sold," he insists. "It has such character. Once you've seen it, you don't forget it."

"When we moved in, it was like a forest -- old Florida, not palm-tree Florida -- woody and secluded," remembers Ronni Knox, who lived for 17 years in the neighborhood, starting in 1985.

She and her husband bought two adjacent lots and built a 6,152-square-foot home, designed by famed Sarasota architect Carl Abbott. "At first, our neighbors complained because they saw steel beams going in and figured in wasn't residential," she says with a smile.

But the house is sheathed in cedar, giving it its name -- Villa Cedro. It won a 25-year "Test of Time Merit Award" earlier this year from the American Institute of Architects' Florida/Caribbean chapter.

Ronni Knox soon became part of the close-knit group of homeowners who all raised their children together. "In my two blocks, there were 17 little boys, and they still are close to one another," she recalls. "They go to each other's weddings and keep up on Facebook."

Foster has had a similar experience. All of her four children grew up in Hidden Forest. "When they come back to visit, they still call it their home, even though they're in their 30s now," she says.

"We used to have over 100 children for Halloween," she continues. "We had a lot of fun. The kids ran from home to home. Everybody knew everybody, and we looked out for them all."

Hidden Forest is still kid-friendly, but for many of the residents, empty-nesters now, the appeal is the ongoing, strong sense of community. Says Foster, "I know my neighbors. I know if there's an emergency, I can look in every direction for help. There are no strangers here."

Another attraction is the convenient access to a variety of amenities. "Hidden Forest has an out-of-the-way, rural feel, but it's also in town," says Krumm. "You're five to 10 minutes from everywhere -- downtown

Sarasota, the airport, museums" and The Mall at University Town Center.

Because people who move into Hidden Forest fall in love with it, the neighborhood has had little turnover. Over the past 10 years, only 14 properties have been sold.

Currently, two properties are on the market, priced at $369,000 and $369,500.

"You get attached," says Foster. "Once you've been here, you never want to leave."

Last modified: November 28, 2014
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