Downtown Sarasota has become one of the hottest urban districts in the State of Florida. It's streets are now lined with sidewalk cafes, boutique retail shops, manicured green spaces and apartment/condominium towers. Can Jacksonville learn anything from the urban core of a metropolitan area with 1/2 the residents? Take a look and give us your opinion.
Downtown Sarasota is the urban center of Florida's 5th largest metropolitan area. Despite being one half the size of metropolitan Jacksonville, Sarasota's core faces many challenges that downtown Jacksonville does. For starters, Sarasota is no longer the largest city in the metropolitan area. That honor now goes to North Port, a sprawling Nocatee on steriods that is now home to 60,380 residents, after having less than 12,000 residents in 1990. Then there's the Mall at University Town Center (UTC). The first regional enclosed mall to open in Florida in years, Sarasota's version of Jacksonville's St. Johns Town Center includes a Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Dillards as anchors to its more than 100 specialty shops and restaurants. While Jacksonville ponders the future of its struggling convention center, Sarasota doesn't even have one.
Despite these challenges, downtown Sarasota is rapidly becoming one of Florida's most desired central business districts. Currently, there are more than 33 development projects underway in Sarasota's core. This number includes over 2,800 residential units, 1,154 hotel rooms and 370,000 square feet of commercial space.
There's also an interesting connection between downtown Jacksonville and downtown Sarasota. That connection is Jacksonville developer Michael Langton. While Langton's LB Jax Development LLC has struggled in its attempts to pull off large scale development projects in downtown Jax, the company has found success in downtown Sarasota in recent years. One project LB Jax is affiliated with is 1350 Main. All of the residential units in this $55 million, 17-story condominium tower were sold within an hour of being offered to the public.
While this isn't meant to become a "my city" is better than "that city" article, it is intended to suggest that downtown revitalization can happen in communities of all sizes and those that have to compete with rapid suburban growth.
Tale of the Tape
To help Jaxsons gain a better understanding of the scale of San Francisco, here are a few statistics of the city in relation to Jacksonville:
Sarasota City Population 2014: 54,214 (City); 748,708 (Metro 2014) - (incorporated in 1902)
Jacksonville City Population 2014: 853,382 (City); 1,419,127 (Metro 2014) - (incorporated in 1832)
City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Sarasota (18,896)
City Land Area
Sarasota: 14.89 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles
Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2010-2014)
Urban Area Population (2010 census)
Sarasota: 643,260 (ranked 64 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 1,065,219 (ranked 40 nationwide)
Urban Area Population Density (2010 census)
Sarasota: 1,969.0 people per square mile
Jacksonville: 2,008.5 people per square mile
City Population Growth from 2010 to 2014
Convention Center Exhibition Space:
Sarasota: Sarasota does not have a convention center
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet
Sarasota: The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota - 261 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet
Who's Downtown Is More Walkable?
Sarasota: 94 out of 100, according to 2015 walkscore.com
Jacksonville: 72 out of 100, according to 2015 walkscore.com
Next Page: Sarasota Photo Tour
Downtown Sarasota map courtesy of http://www.dsasarasota.com/districts