Domaine SRQ2 is for sale
Downtown Sarasota from Ringling Causeway Bridge
SRQ is Sarasota's Airport code for folks in the know. This is SRQ2.
Once upon a time folks used to come to Sarasota for the relaxed atmosphere, slower pace, beautiful gulf beaches, it's bay and water fun. Today we call that "Old Florida". Golf courses arrived my the multitudes usually associated with every new planned community. Chemicals used for their upkeep quickly seeped into our waterways and out into the Gulf increasing the frequency of Red Tide.
A first time visitor to Sarasota will no doubt be impressed with the Sarasota waters and all that implies - it's beaches boating, sailing fishing etc. My favorite turn-ons are the the views from Sarasota's bridges and of course sunsets. Did I mention restaurants? There are many and some really terrific ones but few survive over time. Lastly, since this writer has lived here, the movies shot in Sarasota have brought to town such major stars as, Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Anne Bancroft, Robert De Niro., Woody Harrelson, Elisabeth Shue, Meryl Streep and Nicolas Cage.
Sarasota has always been a haven for artists whose community consists of fine and contemporary art to performing art all starting during the days of Ringling.
Sarasota has a first class museum, its own opera, ballet and orchestra. There are film festivals plus a couple for gays and lesbians. There are a half a dozen performing arts theaters with the grand master being the Van Wezel. It attracts first class talent of all genres world wide. Of course there are multiplex theaters, and an "art theater". There is a botanical garden of some international renown featured in the movie "Orchid Thief", and a marine aquarium noted for its dolphin and turtle rescues. There is a strip joint that they have been trying to get rid of for 30 years and lastly there are knit shops and gun shops, the latter trippeling in the last decade.
A returning visitor after a decade is less likely to be impressed. After two decades, hardly recognizable. Quaint downtown is now canyon lands. Streets are shadowed by high rise condos and office buildings on both sides with a half dozen or more planned as 2017 heads into 2018. Sarasota is also on every homeless persons bucket list resulting in battles between tourist interests and homeless advocates. Park benches were often occupied reclining itinerants whom it was determined had equal access. Rather than offend, the city removed the benches.
1. Sarasota likes to say it has its own Airport - AKA Sarasota "International" Airport. SRQ for folks in the know. As far as the "international" goes, that name is just there to give Sarasota some pizzaz. OK, there are a couple Canadian flights a week in season. And for the connivence of using SRQ, you'll have to change planes and pay a premium for the privilege. Better to use Tampa. (TPA)
2. Sarasota likes to say it has its own TV Station - pretty much a duplication of ABC in Tampa except during local news hours and even then they often tap into national coverage. It was really WWSB UHF Ch 40 but that doesn't sound cool, so they call themselves ABC CH 7 (it's original cable channel number). Their weather man is featured 3 times in a half hour news broadcast which says it all. Oh, they have five weather people!
3. Sarasota likes to say it has its own newspaper - the once NYT owned Sarasota Herald. Today it is 60% Associated Press with headlines rephrased to suit management. A mature reader will sense the immaturity or crankiness of its local writers. It's graphics and choice of headlines are adolescent. It's a big disappointment and deserving of a whole critique. The second section could be considered useful for local happenings - particularly for tourism and things to do. The HT pages generally emphasize performing & fine arts, redundant stories on traffic, roundabouts, the homeless, and LGBT issues. Only liberal folks would say the Herald is not slanted to the left and the political cartoons have yet to show one that leans toward the right.
4. Sarasota likes to say it has its own Marine Laboratory - The Mote Marine Lab, be it a better Aquarium than a Lab. It is a favorite for providing frequent news content on shark research and Red Tide issues and or the release of a turtle or dolphin from rehab - even TV gets in on that one. I once was involved with just such an event volunteering my boat which was occupied with the three person TV crew. Mote's boat included staff of three or four and of course the turtle. We headed out 30 miles, "Because that's where they found the injured turtle"! The four seconds it took for the turtle sliding into the gulf was a major happening for SRQ media.
5. Sarasota doesn't likes to speak about the periodically visiting toxic and nauseating Red Tide. Some years it is absolutely horrific with dead fish washed up every where - in the bays and in the Gulf. The airborne toxins can cause sore throat and watering eyes from a block from the beach. It appeared for years before the Mote Marine Lab got motivated as it didn't fit in with their rescue the hapless mammal image. Eventually a local civic group from Longboat Keygot on their case.
6. Sarasota doesn't likes to speak about the traffic. In season - forget about it. Sure, Sarasota is a tourist destination. The view driving across Sarasota Bay towards St. Armands Circle (Key) is breath taking, as is the bridge to Longboat Key and Siesta Key's north bridge. The old draw bridge has been replaced by a modern span - a good thing but maybe too good. Seems folks like to play on the bridge, have races, fund raising walks of every kind resulting in the four lanes cut to two. It happens most often, you guessed it, during high traffic tourist season. Add to that, downtown Sarasota and St. Armands are often jammed with traffic due to vendor fairs. You've seen them all before, whether Cape May, Kennebunkport or Sedona. Just try and get to or from Longboat Key with an event taking place downtown or on St. Armands. For folks living or renting on Longboat, choose your time wisely heading out to a mainland theater or shopping. And make sure you have a dinner reservation.
7. Sarasota doesn't likes to speak the term "Sanctuary City" although it fits right in with the City's politics.
Here is what the Herald and local TV have to say.
8. Sarasota's new fad - Roundabouts! (I used to call them traffic circles.) Adding to the traffic problems the town board has decided to add roundabouts - where ever they can. - Oh Boy. There has got to be a half dozen already with another 16 in the works!
9. Siesta Key Beach. Every year some publication or travel site names Siesta Key Beach as the number one beach in the country! (Yikes!) I might agree early in the morning at about 6 to 8AM. It has that beautiful white powdery sand (as does Lido & Longboat Key) so often written about. In season and on weekends by mid morning, the parking lots are full and traffic backs up to the Key's draw bridges. The same applies to Lido Key only substitute St. Armands Circle for draw bridge. 2016 -17 saw "The Battle of the Beaches". This time between Lido Key and Siesta Key on beach renourishment sand. "Big Pass", the navigable waterway between Lido Key & Siesta Key shoaled in preventing safe passage of boat traffic. The common sense thing to do is dredge and replace it where it came from. In this case fill it in the eroding part of Lido Key. In 2017 the permits are in place, the Army Corps is ready to go, the lawsuits are still on going. It will be curious to see if the condo at the south end of Lido falls into the Gulf before the end of this fiasco.
Lastly there are secret accesses to beautiful stretches of beach (on Longboat Key) where beachcombers are few. You'll just have to find them as the signs are small and locals dont want too much riffraff. Still you'll have to fight traffic part of the way, and that's all we have to say.
PS. We lived on a canal and have lived here long enough (27 years) to take notice of a significant rise in the high tide level over that period. It is not something often written about as you can understand. You might want to consider this if buying a waterfront home for the long term. Say what you want about global warning but the seas are rising. (In this regard read The Bottle Imp - by Robert Louis Stevenson.)
-Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve