Market Snapshot: Towles Court in Sarasota


Towles Court, on the outskirts of the historic Laurel Park neighborhood, has plenty of history of its own.

Long before the 1920s, when William B. Towles turned the area into a small, upscale neighborhood for professionals and seasonal residents, it had been next door to Florida’s first golf course.

American Tile and Stone in Towles Court in Sarasota.  STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

American Tile and Stone in Towles Court in Sarasota. STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

John Gillespie, Sarasota’s first mayor, who had come from Scotland to help the first contingent from Europe to settle here, was an avid golfer. He laid out a nine-hole course in 1905 and built his third home, “Golf Hall,” nearby. Links Ave, which marks the western boundary of the community, was named in honor of the course.

Towles Court thrived until the 1950s, when shopping malls and newer, gated communities drew residents away from downtown. The historic cottages and two-story buildings were subdivided into apartments for migrant workers, and by the 1990s there were plans to tear down the houses, which had fallen into disrepair.

Enter N.J. Olivieri, a commercial developer, who foresaw a revitalization of downtown Sarasota. He began buying up the dilapidated buildings with the notion of transforming them into a picturesque neighborhood, much like historic Williamsburg, Virginia.

American Tile and Stone in Towles Court in Sarasota.  STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

American Tile and Stone in Towles Court in Sarasota. STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

Friends of his suggested turning the area into an artists colony with mixed-use structures — studios, galleries, restaurants and shops, as well as residential apartments. The first artist signed a lease in December 1995.

Others soon followed, and Towles Court has been flourishing ever since. Occupying just two long city blocks from Adams Lane to Morrill Street, and from Links Avenue to U.S. 301, it consists of little more than two dozen buildings. Many of the 1920s cottages and bungalows, surrounded by stately live oak trees and lush, tropical Florida shrubbery, have been renovated and painted in vibrant colors. New buildings have kept the “artsy” flavor and blend in well with the rest of the neighborhood.

An indication of just how successful the venture has been from a real estate perspective is the fact that the one building now on the market, a 4,000-square-foot, two-story house built in 1998, is listed for $1 million. Many other houses sell in the $300,000 to $600,000 range.

Parlourment Custom Bycycles in Towles Court in Sarasota.  STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

Parlourment Custom Bycycles in Towles Court in Sarasota. STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

There are three places to eat — Indigenous Restaurant, Lavanda Restaurant and The Garden Room Café at Shoogie Boogie’s. A variety of artists, from pottery, glass and jewelry makers to weavers, painters, water colorists and graphic artists, have their studios and galleries there. A custom bike shop, hair stylist and financial planning firm round out the businesses in the area.

Residents are a mix of professionals and singles who like the proximity to downtown Sarasota. A monthly art walk, with live, outdoor music and refreshments, attracts visitors of all ages.

The newest member of the community is Christine Nicole, a photographer specializing in portraits and weddings. In January, she bought a 1920 two-story house at 253 S. Links Ave with the help of Bernadette Caswell, a Realtor with Michael Saunders & Co.

“We looked at a lot of other real estate, but I wanted visibility and vintage,” Nicole said.

Nicole has spent the past eight month renovating the house from the inside out, acting as her own project manager. She redid the interior completely, putting in new, dark-brown, bamboo floors with a traditional feel, a brand new kitchen, bathrooms, window casings, air-conditioning until and water heater.

The new paint on the outside — gray walls and pink shutters — fits well into the neighborhood, where all the homes sport vibrant colors.

“I like to be close to downtown, and I love hot pink,” Nicole said. “This is a great location for business.”

When she opens later this month, she will have her own studio, Christine Nicole Photography. At the same time, under the name Studio 1926, she will share the 1,900 square feet of space with other amateur and professional shutterbugs for use on an hourly, weekly or monthly basis.

What has pleased Nicole to no end is the open armed approach of the other Towles Court owners and residents.

“People are so friendly and hospitable here,” she said. “They really welcome you into the community.”

She also appreciates the amenities: “I’m next to one of the most delicious restaurants — Indigenous,” she said.

Because it is a small cultural and artistic enclave, Towles Court doesn’t experience a lot of real estate turnover. In addition to the one home on the market, one is active with contract. Over the past 12 months, there have been four sales, ranging in price from $300,000 to $479,900.

Last modified: October 16, 2015
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published without permissions. Links are encouraged.