Social (media) hour leads to lively debate on style and redevelopment


Inasmuch as this is 2015 and one of the most important numbers in my life is my data usage, and I am a journalist, I have to spend a good bit of time each day “on social media.” It has become part of the job.

I don’t go overboard. I’m not “on” Pintrest or LinkedIn or Instagram, and certainly not Snapchat, but I do post regularly on Twitter, carefully crafting my 140-character editorials (with the hashtag #htrealestate), and Facebook.

The latter is my favorite social medium, as I can post photos, photo galleries, videos and blurbs on a variety of topics, from the passing earlier this year of our Great Dane to the outlook for the 2015 Florida Gator football team (7-5 would be an accomplishment). And I can make these posts as lengthy as I like.

(I sense that Twitter users tend to be journalists, while Facebook users tend to be everyone else).

My specialty, as many of my nearly 1,400 Facebook friends would agree, is making innocuous little comments that spark firestorms of debate.

Well, maybe these comments are not so innocuous. Sometimes, it is as if I have tossed a steak among a pack of hungry wolves. Then I just step back and watch the carnage.

The other day, I posted a photo of a house under construction (you will find it published with this column) in a well-respected waterfront neighborhood and wrote, “How many more of these can Harbor Acres hold?”

Plenty of people were willing to answer.

Pandora Seibert pounced early: “Harbor Acres is going to sink!”

“Is it a home or a corporate headquarters?” wrote Nancy Krohngold.

Nancy’s comment was in reference to the house’s design — another modernist rhapsody by architect Mark Sultana of DSDG Inc.

“They are so cold and soulless. It’s a shame. Harbor Acres used to be one of our prettiest neighborhoods,” said Kathy Walker Van Citters, a longtime friend.

“I think they are a beautiful change from the mundane, poorly done Mediterranean homes that have been the standard for years,” wrote Andrew Guenther.

Then Sultana checked in.

“It is a shame that some people cannot see the beauty, life and warmth that exist in modern architecture,” he wrote. “I have learned in my career that I cannot make everyone happy with my architecture, but making my clients happy is my goal.”

Then Kathy elaborated.

“Mark, my comment wasn’t meant to offend any of our talented architects (like you!) who are adding much-needed interesting design in Sarasota,” she wrote. “I greatly admire modernist architecture, and recently took a visitor on a driving tour of some of Sarasota’s finest examples.

“What makes a home attractive is so personal. To me, an appealing home says ‘welcome,’ whatever the style or vintage; and it is authentic in scale and details to whatever design is chosen; and it sits in harmony and context with the site and neighbors. Some of the gargantuan new places in Harbor Acres are crammed onto lots and don’t respect their neighbors or the area’s character and history. The overly fussy fake Med houses are as lacking in charm as the stern, corporate-looking modernist buildings. But you’re right: It’s your client’s taste that you must satisfy. And that’s why we have more than one flavor of ice cream.”

She said a lot there, and although I agree that scale is important, I dispute that context is all that important in Sarasota architecture. (A lot of you will disagree, but I like a mix of styles. A modern next to a Med doesn’t bother me at all.)

“This house fails to complete; I think it’s the stairs and cheap-looking balconies. This could pass for public housing,” wrote Virginia Hoffman.

It was time for the moderator (instigator) to step in.

“Ya’ll are breaking Harold’s First Rule of Architectural Criticism: Never judge a house until it is finished,” I wrote. “Renderings and construction photos aren’t fair. I don’t want to be judged before I shave and shower (not that it helps much), and I know most ladies would not want their husbands to walk into the bathroom and say ‘whoa!’ before the hair and makeup are done and the outfit is on.”

Fortunately, friend-since-childhood Don Saba brought the discussion back around to real estate, and my original question.

“It’s all about highest and best use pertaining to appropriate land-to-improvement value ratios,” wrote Saba, a private real estate appraiser. “Styles in architecture that are in vogue come and go. I am more concerned about over-improvement, based on the site values, than in the style of architecture.

“We are seeing the same issue that occurred in some of the golf-course communities, now, West of the Trail, where the percentage of value attributed to the site is going down due to over-improvement, which hurts the resale of the homes due to the functional obsolescence.”

In other words, the owners are putting too much house on their lots.

The last word goes to Realtor Kim Ogilvie, who has sold a lot of luxury property in Harbor Acres. She commented, “You know how to stir a pot, Bubil. I’m seeing a shift in the paradigm of values in neighborhoods such as Harbor Acres. Represented here is some of the most valuable land in our city.

“Don is right — the proportion has to be correct, but I think Harbor Acres is the perfect backdrop for exceptional architecture in homes of this scale.”

Just another evening on Facebook. Thanks, all, for commenting.

You can follow @htrealestate on Twitter, or comment for yourself at

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: September 7, 2015
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