Market Snapshot: Palm Island on Siesta Key


Palm Island on Siesta Key is a unique waterfront neighborhood — an island within an island, rich in history and strong in community. It also is known as “the heart of Siesta Key” because of the heart-shaped contour carved by the canal that surrounds it. Within walking distance of Crescent Beach and accessible by a humpback bridge, its 140 homes line a perimeter roadway, Island Circle, and two cross streets, Calle Florida and La Rosas.

The island was made in the early 1920s from the fill created by the dredging of the main portion of the key’s Grand Canal. It was developed by Frank Archibald in the 1940s and 50s. According to “The Hidden History of Sarasota” by historian Jeff LaHurd, Archibald was there as a youngster when the dredging unearthed the wreck of a paddle-wheel steamer and later recalled, “There were skeletons of people aboard with gold rings on their fingers.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Palm Island on Siesta Key

A small lake is in the center of the Palm Island neighborhood on Siesta Key.  STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

A small lake is in the center of the Palm Island neighborhood on Siesta Key.

(Archibald also admitted to accidentally wrecking the old water trough at Five Points with “my old man’s Ford.")

Today, Palm Island is a well-established neighborhood, populated by mature palms and live oaks and lush, subtropical vegetation. Ospreys nest in the trees, and manatees and small stingrays play in the Grand Canal on its northern boundary.

The eastern point of the island has a county park that is named after Elsie Blair, a former resident and booster. After she and her husband arrived there in 1963, Blair served as president of the Palm Island Neighborhood Association, formed in 1951, and founded the island’s garden club. She died at age 94 in 1996. Her granddaughter still lives on the island.

The houses on the island come in a variety of architectural styles. A number of them are estate-size, luxury mansions that have replaced teardowns. But many of the original beach cottages, Florida ranch homes and modernist dwellings are still standing, including the residence of prominent Sarasotan Judy Veale, which was built in 1948 by John Lambie Sr., who devised a poured-in-place concrete building system called “Lamolithic.” Lambie built several houses designed by architect Paul Rudolph.

The bridge crosses a circular canal that surrounds Palm Island on Siesta Key.  STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

The bridge crosses a circular canal that surrounds Palm Island on Siesta Key.

The island has several unusual abodes, from a two-story home with a rooftop swimming pool, to a house painted in dual shades of purple, to “The Round House,” designed and built by internationally renowned artist Thornton Utz, who used it as his residence and studio. Almost completely obscured by trees from the street at Calle Florida and Island Circle, its distinct egg-shape can be seen from Google Earth.

Palm Island is not deed-restricted. The homeowners association’s voluntary dues of $40 a year go toward upkeep of common areas and Elsie Blair Park.

Dan Miller, an agent with Re/Max Tropical Sands, has lived on Palm Island since 1991 and has made it something of his bailiwick. In the past five years, he has represented more buyers and sellers on the island than any other Realtor. Six of the current nine listings are his.

As the owner of a 30-foot Regal Cruiser, he loves Palm Island for its excellent boating water. “About 50 percent of the residents have boats,” he says. “It takes 18 to 20 minutes to get to the bay — a leisurely ride. During the holiday, you can see all the Christmas decorations lit up.”

Miller also appreciates the neighborly spirit. “People talk to each other during morning walks, and the annual get-together in Elsie Blair Park is a popular community event,” he says. Earlier this year, when the Light family, 18-year residents of Palm Island, donated a Free Little Library at Elsie Blair Park, the community embraced it immediately, stocking it with books and magazines.

Homeowners enjoy the seclusion and peaceful quiet of the neighborhood. Although within walking distance of Siesta Village and the beach, you won’t hear traffic or nightlife on the island. Many residents prefer to use golf carts instead of their cars to get around.

According to Miller, Palm Island’s population is about half snowbirds, half year-round residents. “There are a lot of retirees — many of them former military people — and physicians and attorneys, both retired and practicing,” he says.

The profile has changed, however, since he first arrived. “The makeup is much younger now,” Miller insists. “I have neighbors now with toddlers and small children.”

Over the past 12 months, there have been eight sales, ranging from $430,500 to $1.15 million. The nine homes one the market are priced from $540,000 to $1.65 million, and three is one active with contract, and one pending sale.

Last modified: June 25, 2015
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