Riegel’s Landing, a small, secluded waterfront enclave of million-dollar homes on Siesta Key, is named for a longtime Sarasota family that owned a well-known marina there.
Frederick Riegel arrived in Sarasota from Pennsylvania in 1910. An enterprising young man, he and a partner soon opened a marina hardware business on one of the old city piers. He also managed the first Ford dealership in town, displaying the newest Model T motor cars. When Frederick married Esther Jenson, another transplant from up north, they purchased several properties in the Bungalow Hill subdivision, just south of Hudson Bayou, and built several houses there. One of them, Riegel Cottage still standing on Citrus Avenue, harks back to that time.
After buying out his longtime partner, Riegel moved his marina north of town to Hog Creek, off what is now the Tamiami Trail, and brought his two sons, Al and Fred, Jr., into the business. Following World War II, when Florida Power & Light bought up most of the property around them, the Riegels moved once again, this time to Siesta Key, just off Midnight Pass Road. The new spot was even more favorable and better sheltered, and the Riegels operated a thriving marina there for 35 years, serving customers from as far south as Venice.
Today, Riegel’s Landing is an upscale community for boating buffs. Twenty-two of the 29 homes in the neighborhood have deeded docks on both sides of two harbor inlets and the Intracoastal Waterway. The other seven have access, too.
Judie Berger of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty has three listings in the neighborhood. She likes it for its proximity to Crescent Beach, just a half-mile away, and for the advantageous boating water — six feet at low tide.
“There is limited deep boating water on Siesta Key — much of it is shallow,” she says. “And there are not many places where you can have a big boat.”
One of her clients originally bought his home in Riegel’s Landing because of the harbor. “It was a place where, even in a storm, he knew his boat wouldn’t move an inch. The sheltered harbor would and did take good care of it,” says Berger.
Chris and Suzanne Drake, whose home is listed by Betsy de Manio, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker, have lived in Riegel’s Landing for 30 years and are boating enthusiasts, too. A retired surgeon from Chicago, Chris can still remember when they first arrived: “There were no speed limits on the Intracoastal then, and big boats would come zooming by.”
They bought a model home from the developer and enjoyed their 38-foot sailboat for much of their stay. “I love the house, and the harbor is just perfect — very protected from the weather, and great for our grandkids to standup paddle board, kayak and fish off the dock,” says Suzanne Drake.
“It’s very quiet,” she continues. “Sometimes, when there are big whoopdeedoos over at the beach, we can sit out here on the deck and you can barely hear a thing.”
Secluded and peaceful, Riegel’s Landing is one of the better-kept secrets of Siesta Key. It’s easy to drive past the sign on Midnight Pass Road, just past St. Boniface Episcopal Church, that marks the entrance to the neighborhood. An unassuming alley leads to the gates, which open automatically during the day.
Behind it, a curved, dead-end road with landscaped islands and two cul de sac offshoots to the harbors winds through densely tropical flora. There are huge palm trees and towering oaks. The majestic cypresses are indigenous to the key. You have the sense of being in a lush, overgrown Florida forest.
“It’s one of the great canopy neighborhoods on Siesta Key — wonderful for providing shade in summer,” says Berger.
One of the reasons for the abundant foliage is that the developer, Jerry Rosenberg, platted the roads at twice their actual width in order to preserve as much of the original vegetation as possible. The architecture of the estate-sized, two- and three-story homes is California Contemporary, popular in the 1980s and early 1990s. Exterior stairways, porches and walls, composed vertical wooden board and batten, give it a treehouse look that blends in well with the greenery.
Residents are a mix of retirees, working professionals, business owners and families with small children. The homeowner’s association is quite active and community-oriented. Fees of $300 per quarter are relatively low and cover the gate, roads, island landscaping and a common well, which pumps water to each home’s sprinkler system.
Sales have been slow — only two houses have sold since 2013, for $1.49 million and $1.650 million. Currently, six homes are on the market, ranging in price from $975,000 to $2,149,000; one house is “active with contract.” It may seem an unusually large number of listings for a community of just 29 homes, but according to de Manio, “It’s coincidental.”
“It’s turnover time,” says Suzanne Drake. “There are several of us who have lived here forever, and we’re getting older and want to downsize.”