No local towns on retirement places list?


I would like to get through this Letter without going into a rant, but I am afraid that won’t be possible this week.

It will end on a positive note, though, with a look at the opening party for the University of Florida’s City-Lab Sarasota celebration at the Center for Architecture Sarasota.

First, the rant: In another example of list journalism, WalletHub has named Tampa the nation’s best place to retire, because housing is cheap and there is a lot to do. Orlando, Cape Coral and St. Pete also are among the best places on WalletHub’s list. (I call such stories “click magnets.") I love Tampa, I really do. Have been there hundreds of times. But best place to retire? How about, best place to start a career? I could believe that.

Apparently, the author compiled statistics on housing costs, medical care, entertainment options and other things that are important to retirees.

Here’s the real stinger. Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties are nowhere to be found in the top 150 of WalletHub’s best places to retire. Odd, considering that Venice and Sarasota were named top retirement places in 2014 by Forbes (Venice) and Movoto (Sarasota). (Sarasota also was named to Movoto’s list of 10 Sexiest Small Cities, although I don’t know what that is all about.) As this is 2015, and we can do all kinds of things on social media, many of them things we shouldn’t do at all, I turned to my Facebook page to solicit reader reaction. I have about 1,500 friends on Facebook, and most of them seem quite smart and articulate.

“White sandy beaches, gorgeous sunsets and beautiful water rounded out with world-class theatre and arts, dynamic sporting venues and fine dining,” wrote Realtor Jo Ellyn Yturraspe. “Thinking WalletHub has their finger on the wrong pulse!”

“Not sure why they wouldn’t mention Manatee and Sarasota,” wrote Cindy Quinn, a real estate agent on Anna Maria Island. “Clearly our area has been in the news enough to gain attention about the affordable lifestyle here. I think the smart ones do their own research!”

“There is something for everyone here,” wrote real estate agent Judy Nimz, “not only housing, but amenities, activities and cultural activities. There is a sense of community here, a big city but still the charm of a small town!”

Julie Blomquist, a former Herald-Tribune journalist, asked, “Who could stand the traffic in Tampa? And why would you want to, when Sarasota is so much more beautiful, with the water and everything here that you could possibly want to do. And there is some reasonably priced housing away from the water. I mean, I live here.”

Ah, housing costs. The big bugaboo, at least in Sarasota.

“We have a high housing demand, low inventory, rising costs, and limited employment opportunities,” wrote home builder Josh Wynne. “This is a great place to retire wealthy. — No argument there, Josh.) Not such a great place to retire middleclass or less. It’s all relative, I suppose.”

Another realty agent, Randall Van Vlaenderen, countered by writing, “We don’t consider ourselves wealthy; comfortable, but certainly not wealthy. Yet we plan to retire here. I think the difference is move here to retire. If you’ve lived here for some time, you probably bought a house at a much lower price and will have no mortgage. Cost of living is also, as you say, relative. You can choose to eat out almost every night, as some we know do, or you can economize as long, as someone knows how to cook! Taxes and insurance are the true uncertainties, along with healthcare.”

OK, I will give WalletHub some space on the housing-cost issue. Prices are high west of the interstate, but I do know a lot of economically challenged retirees, some of them journalists (I left out the adjective poor), who live in Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte. I do not see them moving to Tampa to save on rent.

And, considering that local traffic can echo that of Tampa, maybe art photographer Virginia Hoffman said it best when she wrote of our exclusion from the WalletHub list, “Probably a blessing.”

Citylab welcomes first students

The University of Florida’s College of Design, Construction and Planning opened its second CityLab branch campus last week by welcoming a class of seven master’s of architecture students to its new facility in the McCulloch Center on South Orange Avenue in Sarasota.

CityLab Sarasota is sharing the renovated furniture store/county government print shop with the Center for Architecture Sarasota and the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

A capacity crowd attended the celebration on Wednesday. Other than the need for some inconspicuous acoustical panels (and a safe, elevated speaker’s podium), the facility sparkled for one of its first public events since opening in the spring.

A lot of work and a lot of fundraising went into turning Cindy Peterson’s dream of both CFAS and CityLab into a reality in just 18 months. More than $1 million in cash and in-kind services were donated, and many of the key benefactors were in attendance. It didn’t hurt that Cindy was able to talk her husband, Guy Peterson, into providing architectural services on a pro bono basis. Smart choice, by both of them.

Michael Walker, who did the contracting, was not able to attend, but a CFAS board member presented a scholarship to a CityLab student on his behalf. Each of the seven students received portions of $40,000 in scholarship money from donors Mel and Gary Fisher, Guy Peterson, Joe Barbetta, the local AIA chapter, Walker and Nathalie McCulloch, for whom the building is named.


Taylor Morrison is not yet selling lots at its new Bayside development in Osprey. But it is taking reservations. An item in the Aug. 22 In Brief column indicated that sales were under way. Bayside will have 49 home sites with maintenance-free living on Little Sarasota Bay. Interested parties are invited to visit to register for the VIP list and receive regular updates on the project.

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: August 31, 2015
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