Can you retire in Sarasota?



I get a lot of emails, and even a few letters and cards, which I keep in my desk drawer as proof that the U.S. Postal Service can deliver something other than mailer ads.

All of these notes are much appreciated, but a few stand out. Like one that I received after my recent column criticizing a website that omitted the Sarasota-Manatee-Charlotte area on its list of best places to retire. The email is from a 43-year resident of Sarasota. The town wasn’t quite a sleepy fishing village when she arrived in 1972, but it wasn’t too far removed.

“Count me as one of the long-time residents who will be unable to retire in Sarasota because of the high cost of living here,” wrote Deborah Alborell. “We still have a mortgage to pay, and with the cost of everything going up, up, up, and our income barely keeping up, it will be very difficult to stay in our home unless we work fulltime until we are 80. I’m not sure I want to do that.”

OK, so housing is expensive. We know that. But there’s more:

“Sarasota is a very different town from when I came here,” she wrote. “It is very different from 10 years ago, even. We don’t feel as if we belong here anymore. I don’t agree with the people who say we have a small-town atmosphere. Not anymore. We are an urban center and growing steadily in the direction of being even more so. We are turning into Tampa or Miami, with all their problems.”

Deborah also complains about traffic and the lack of affordable rentals or resale houses.

“It is very difficult to leave the town I have loved so long and all the friends I have made here, but unless we want to live on the streets, which is terribly frowned upon, or work until our dying day, we will have to find somewhere with a lower cost of living and an atmosphere in which we belong.”

Now some of you may be thinking, “If you don’t like it, leave.”

In fact, that is exactly what one commenter said when I posted this question on my current best thermometer of local public opinion, Facebook: Can you retire in Sarasota? Will you?

Opinions were split about 50-50, with half loving the city and the other 50 percent echoing the complaints of my letter writer.

“Yes, I can” retire in Sarasota, wrote Josh Wynne. “No, I won’t. As more people have discovered the gem that ‘is’ Sarasota, Sarasota has become less of a gem. The things that I value most about my home town are quickly disappearing.”

“I have lived in Sarasota County for more than 40 years,” wrote Ann Runyon Peterson. “I retired six years ago. I spend part of the year in Honolulu, another very special spot, but always love coming home to this beautiful city. Anyone who can call Sarasota home is blessed.”

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 13, 2015
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