Letter From Home: Adding depth to downtown Sarasota

Guy Peterson with his Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects' Florida/Caribbean chapter. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 8-16-2016.

Guy Peterson with his Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects' Florida/Caribbean chapter. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 8-16-2016.

The Herald-Tribune’s well-attended reception for AIA Florida Gold Medal-winning architect Guy Peterson on Aug. 16 touched on a number of subjects, including designing with sea-level rise in mind (a serious issue in Florida, to be saved for another day here), and the evolution of downtown Sarasota.

The architect panelists – AIA Florida’s 2016 Design Awards winners Jonathan Parks, Jerry Sparkman, Michael Halflants, Greg Hall, Sam Holladay, Carl Abbott and Peterson – noted that with the rapid construction of residential buildings both in downtown and the Rosemary District, another type of retail will be needed – grocery stores to go along with the plethora of restaurants, clothes stores and gift shops.

“What makes this a great city, and will continue to do so, is a balance between all parts of what makes up our culture,” Hall said. “We have residential being built right now. But what have to come with that are the types of businesses and types of architecture to support that. Remember the 5&10 on Main Street that is no longer there? The 5&10 will come back. The corner grocery store will come back, because now there is going to be a need.”

While many longtime residents complain about the pace of change in Sarasota, Abbott, who established his practice here 50 years ago, said, “It is hard to judge right now. All of this is happening so rapidly. Most cities evolve over long periods and adapt to the buildings as they are built. That is not happening right now.

“There have to be more grocery stores beside Whole Foods,” Abbott said. “There have to be more shops, more tailors, because people will be living here. And with all the people filling these buildings, it is going to be hell to drive.”

Halflants, who is designing 4- and 5-story multi-family buildings in the Rosemary District, said that area’s development will add an extra dimension to Sarasota’s built environment.

“You are creating a streetscape, an environment created by many buildings together,” Halflants said. “The Rosemary District has some older buildings to go with the new ones, and it is really going to give the city more depth.

“I have been looking for the downtown for a long time in Sarasota. Having more depth, so it is not just Main Street, where you have other places you can go, is only going to put the pants back on the city.” (That, a reference to urban planner Andres Duany’s one-time assertion that from an urban development standpoint, Sarasota needed to take off its beach shorts and put on some grown-up pants.)

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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: August 21, 2016
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