Although many of them were beautiful homes, not all the residents were fans. Janet Minker still remembers arriving in Lido Shores in 2009 and getting ready to build a home there.
“The first question neighbors asked was, ‘What kind of house will it be?’ and they were relieved when I told them that it was designed by local modernist architects Jonathan Park and Chris Leader,” she recalls.
Since then, there also have been a number of renovations of original historical homes, notably the iconic Umbrella House, designed by “Sarasota School” of architecture practitioner Paul Rudolph in 1953-54. Owners Bob and Anne Essner recently completed the reconstruction of the shading structure that gives the house its name. The landscaping has been redone and the property, in pristine condition, is the site of frequent tours by architecture buffs, arranged by the Sarasota Architectural Foundation.
According to Minker, who chairs the board of SAF, which is dedicated to preserving the area’s midcentury modern buildings, the construction trend has reversed, as well.
“A number of people in the neighborhood have purchased the bungalows and small houses to renovate them or replace them with modernist homes,” she explains. “They already own a home in Lido Shores and want to preserve the smaller scale.”
Lido Shores was developed in the 1950s and ‘60s by Philip Hiss, a major force behind the “Sarasota School” discipline as practiced by Rudolph, Tim Seibert, Carl Abbott and others. Their central notion was to minimize the boundary between the inside and outside of homes, an idea that has influenced the design of homes in Florida and other warm, tropical places ever since.
Today, Lido Shores is a beautiful neighborhood of 122 homes with an eclectic mix of architectural styles. If you want to have a modernist experience, head down Morningside Drive, which is lined on both sides with attractive examples of contemporary and historic modern architecture.
Along the waterfront in Lido Shores, you will find Spanish-style estate villas with red barrel-tile roofs, Victorian-influenced Key West mansions and large modernist houses.
Inland there are still small homes, many with xeriscaped front yards. Others are surrounded by lush tropical foliage, including large red bougainvillea bushes. There are banyan trees and yellow trumpet trees currently in bloom. But the signature trees seem to be palms in all varieties — queen and royal, Washingtonia, cabbage and more.
The waterfront vistas are spectacular. The Tuscan-style villa at 1418 John Ringling Parkway, for example, has a panoramic view that includes the John Ringling Bridge and downtown Sarasota. Listed for $4,975,000 by Bryan and Cheri Guentner, the owners of Re/Max Platinum Realty, it was built in 2004 and has five bedrooms, five full baths,tall ceilings, a wine cellar, wrought-iron railings and an infinity pool.
“The views are stunning, both during the day and night,” says Guentner. “Downtown Sarasota after hours is like a brilliant sea of shining lights.”
Kevin Fulcher, the current owner, agrees. “On the fourth of July, we can see six different sets of fireworks from our upstairs balcony.”
But the gorgeous scenery is not the only reason residents are fond of Lido Shores. Boaters love it. Many of the homes have private docks. Guentner’s listing is one of the few that has four lifts, two for boats and two for personal watercraft.
Inland homeowners and residents who have larger boats can moor them at the Sailing Squadron next to Mote Marine in Ken Thompson Park. It is literally within walking distance, and holds weekly sailing regattas and sailing classes for youngsters.
There are many restaurants close by, including the Dry Dock and The Old Salty Dog near Mote, and all the dining and shopping opportunities on St. Armands Circle.
“It’s a perfect location — away from the hubbub of downtown and just a few steps from the beach,” says Minker. “For exercise you can walk into downtown across the bridge.”
At the same time, Lido Shores has a real sense of community. Residents are a mix of locals and seasonal retirees. The neighborhood doesn’t have an HOA, but a voluntary property owner’s association, with annual dues of $200, takes care of the privately owned beach, which has a popular bocce court and an elegant, airy pavilion designed by Michael Epstein of Seibert Architects.
“It’s a very lively community,” says Minker. “We have potluck dinners and sunset gatherings at the pavilion.”
She continues, “A number of the retirees are involved in the larger community — the arts, More Marine, FAS, the orchestra and theaters. They’re interested in Sarasota and want to give back.”
Sales have been steady. In the past year, five homes sold, ranging in price from $580,000 to $5.475 million. Currently, there are 12 houses on the market, from $899,000 to $7.995 million, and one pending sale. Several of the houses on the market could be considered teardowns or remodeling projects.
“I just love it here,” says Minker. “It’s definitely like living in paradise.”