The renaissance of Sarasota National, an upscale golf-course community in Venice, is a welcome sign of the vitality in South County. The 2,400-acre development, half a mile east of Jacaranda Boulevard on the south side of U.S. 41, has beautiful views of fairways, scenic lakes and large nature preserves. Wildlife abounds, with bald eagles, osprey, sandhill cranes, and many other birds in ample supply.
Because the Audubon Society was involved in planning the community, 1,300 acres of wetlands, hammocks and sanctuaries were set aside to provide beautiful and dramatic backdrops for the homes. The golf course has an Audubon International Certified Signature Sanctuary designation.
Originally part of Taylor Ranch, the ambitious development fell victim to the real estate downturn. Tuscano LLC had bought the land for $108.3 million in 2005, only to lose it to foreclosure. By then, the golf course, designed by links architect Gordon Lewis, was up and running successfully.
But the rest of the neighborhood lay fallow until 2013, when WCI Communities bought it for $48.5 million. The company, based in Bonita Springs, has created master-planned, luxury-lifestyle communities throughout Florida. It moved ahead aggressively at Sarasota National, and things are moving along, well ahead of projections.
Drive around the community, and you’ll see a number of finished sections where attractive homes line both sides of the street. The architecture is mostly Mediterranean-revival with barrel-tile roofs, stucco exteriors and Southwestern mission-style elements. The open floor plans and 10-foot ceilings provide a sense of volume inside.
Other areas have a mix of completed houses and residences under construction. Altogether, more than 450 homes have been built, and more are constantly being built.
“They’re closing on 20 to 25 homes a month and start construction on just as many,” says Joe Haydon, a Realtor with Re/Max Platinum Realty. “I like to say, ‘Every day a dumpster disappears and a moving van arrives,’ that’s how quickly it’s getting populated.”
Hayden has been the busiest local Realtor in Sarasota National, responsible for 17 transactions over the past two years. “The sales center is very broker-friendly with outside Realtors,” he says.
The community is divided into two large subdivisions offering different experiences. Golf Village surrounds the Sarasota National Golf Course and is platted for 800 homes. Ownership there requires buying into the club with a $17,000 initiation fee. There is a “19th Hole” bar and grill and pro shop for members, but the course is open to the public.
The western part, called the Lake Villages, doesn’t require golf-club membership for its 754 home sites, although residents can enjoy the links on a “pay to play” basis.
“There is tremendous beauty and spaciousness here. Many homes have water and a preserve behind them and then, off on the horizon, Florida hammocks and meadow lands,” says Hayden.
Both subdivisions support the recently opened amenities complex, surrounded by large royal and queen palms. A 13,167-square-foot resort-style clubhouse offers formal and casual dining, meeting and activity rooms, a coffee lounge library, and a poolside tiki bar. The giant swimming pool has both lap lanes and a gradual “beach” entry.
For those interested in physical activities, there is a fitness center and courts for bocce ball, pickle ball and tennis.
Sarasota National is maintenance-free throughout, which makes it attractive to year-around residents and snowbirds. “You don’t have to worry about lawn care or your neighbor’s lawn,” says Hayden with a smile.
“Buyers are primarily retirees and those about to retire,” he continues.
Coming from as far away as California, Colorado and Texas, as well as the traditional Midwestern states and the Northeast, the new residents like the variety of homes and favorable prices. “You get a lot house for your money,” says Hayden.
The vast majority of homes are single-family residences. There are 2-bedroom homes of less than 2000 square feet, priced in the mid-$200,000s. Larger 3-bedroom houses, between 2,100 and 3,000 square feet, range from the mid-$300,000s to the low- to mid-$400,000s. Also available are a some 2-bedroom carriage homes and coach homes, six and four to a building, respectively.
Each owner pays $265 a month in HOA dues, and annual CDD fees also are due. The gate at the main entrance is guarded during daylight hours. Coverage will expand to 24/7 as soon as the population base is large enough to support it.
Sarasota National is near shopping and restaurant opportunities along on U.S. 41 toward Jacaranda Boulevard. When the West Villages project to the east is completed, it will add a new Publix and a medical campus of Sarasota Memorial Hospital. At the same time, Manasota Beach and downtown Venice are within easy driving distance.
“I always tell clients, ‘It’s a 15-minute town,’ ” says Hayden. “You can get anywhere you need to go, from the Interstate to beaches, in 15 minutes or less.”