Discover Sarasota

June 15, 2011 5 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville explores a Gulf Coast paradise, known for its rich arts culture, white sands, and on-the-verge development. Sarasota is a dynamic, spread-out city, that has seen recent aesthetic changes.

Tale of the Tape

Sarasota Population 2010: 51,917 (City); 702,281 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1913)

Jacksonville Pop. 2010: 821,784 (City); 1,328,144 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City Population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Sarasota (18,896)

Metropolitan Area Growth Rate (2000-2010)

Sarasota: +19.04%
Jacksonville: +19.85%

Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Sarasota: 559,229 (ranked 61st nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43rd nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Sarasota: 2067.8
Jacksonville: 2149.2

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2010

Sarasota: -798
Jacksonville: +86,167

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Sarasota: Sarasota Bradenton International Convention Center (2003) - 93,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1986) - 78,500 square feet

Connected to Convention Center:

Sarasota: Holiday Inn Sarasota-Bradenton Airport - 135 rooms
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Sarasota: The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota - 261 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Fortune 500 companies 2010 (City limits only):

Sarasota: Zero (0)
Jacksonville: CSX (259), Winn-Dixie (306), Fidelity National Financial (366)


Urban infill obstacles:

Sarasota: Tamiami Trail and Washington Boulevard cut downtown off from the waterfront and parks.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.


Downtown Nightlife:

Sarasota: Main Street
Jacksonville: East Bay Street


Common Downtown Albatross:

Surface parking lots.

Whose Downtown is more walkable?

Sarasota: 92 out of 100, according to
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to

City Land Area
Sarasota: 14.89 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

About Sarasota

Sarasota, together with its neighbors to the north and south, Manatee County and Charlotte County, form the 7th-largest market in Florida. It is also Florida's third-fastest growing major market. With over 600,000 people, the Sarasota/Manatee/Charlotte area is one of the largest, most affluent markets in Florida. In the last 5 years, it has grown 4 times faster than the national average. The per capita retail sales are almost 20% above the national average. It has a strong base of retirement age people, about a third of the population, but the fastest-growing segment of the market is middle-aged adults and their children. It has approximately 1/4 the population of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.

Budding Development

Cancer Support Community

The Cancer Support Community Florida Suncoast's brand-new facility in Lakewood Ranch. Construction was completed in October 2010. The building's designer, Carlson Studio Architecture, was recently named a finalist in the Collins Center for Public Policy's 2011 Best Practice Awards, Green Building category. It's achieved LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council - the first health facility in Sarasota to do so. Photo courtesy of Carlson Studio.

Interior of the center in the construction phase. Photo courtesy of Carlson Studio.

Sarasota Museum of Art
The Ringling College of Art & Design is working to renovate the old Sarasota High School campus on U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail), to open its 'Sarasota Museum of Art.' It will be the city's first museum of modern and contemporary art and function as "a vital part of Sarasota's rich cultural legacy, interweaving exhibitions, educational programs, and community outreach initiatives to engage a diverse audience." They are halfway to their $22-million fund goal.

"Ask Gary" Home
Most of us have seen that pesty commercial for 1-800-ASK-GARY. Well, Gary is real and he's just finished constructing a home on Siesta Key. It's been a topic of many conversations, turned up many noses, but here it is ... speak for yourself.

New Condominium

This high-rise has been in the works for several years. It's finally been fully completed as of early 2011.

New Ed Smith Stadium
Sarasota County recently approved more than $1 million in contracts to improve the Baltimore Orioles' Spring Training Complex. Construction of the renovated stadium began after the 2010 Spring Training Season came to an end. The facilities "usher in a new era in the already rich histories of the Orioles and the Sarasota region."

Beaches, Waterfronts, & Parks

Siesta Key Beach
Sista Key Beach was just named 'The #1 Beach in America' in the 20th annual Top 10 Beach List by coastal expert and FIU's Laboratory for Coastal Research Director Dr. Stephen Leatherman (a.k.a Dr. Beach).

World-renowned Siesta Key Beach

Siesta Key's Siesta Beach has accumulated numerous awards in recognition of its soft, clean, pure-white sand. Consistently, it is rated among the top ten beaches of Florida, the U.S., and the world. Harvard University's geology department found the sand of Siesta Beach was 99% pure quartz. The sand has been described as "dazzling" and it is stated that it never feels hot. Siesta Key's remarkable sand and the azure, warm water of its beaches are a great attraction for tourists and local beachgoers alike.,_Florida

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Entrance to the park on Palm Avenue, right before Downtown.

Entrance/Welcome Center to the Gardens. Their mission is to share with the city, the understanding of plant life, horticulture, conservation, and new research.

Downtown Waterfront/Marina

View of the Sarasota Bay and the Ringling Bridge, going into Downtown.

Wide, walkable sidewalks like these line the waterfront and marina.

A local dock spot at O'Leary's Tiki Bar & Grill.

One of several recently finished condominiums in the coveted Golden Gate Point neighborhood. The 22-acre peninsula of land was once owned by circus magnet John Ringling. New development has swept through to include streetscape transformation consisting of tropical landscape, additional sidewalks, and underground utilities. Condos range from $500,000 - $4 million.

Art installations along the stretch of park in front of the marina change out continuously.

The renowned 'Times Square Kiss' styrofoam sculpture on the Bayfront. Artist J. Seward Johnson created the piece in 2005, naming it "Unconditional Surrender".

The prestigious One Sarasota Tower at the corner of Downtown's central business district is adjacent to the Bayfront.

Dining & Nightlife

Siesta Key

Captain Curt's Crab & Oyster Bar, with its outdoor Tiki Bar next door, on Midnight Pass Road, right over the South Bridge to the key. The Travel Channel named it the Best Family Restaurant on the island. The Tiki Bar stays open until 2 a.m., with live music daily.

A new-and-improved plaza sits at the start of the South Bridge to the key. It's filled with retail shops, water and beach rentals, and dining.

Boatyard Waterfront Bar & Grill at the end of the strip overlooks the Sarasota Intercoastal, with indoor and outdoor-patio seating. It replaced Coaster's restaurant in 2009.

The view from the patio at Boatyard of the South Bridge.

A mobile "World Famous Double-Decker Cafe Bus" sits in the now-closed BP gas station lot. Java Dawg Coffee's store is located along US 41, at the corner of Fiesta Dr.

"The Village" on Siesta Key is the central area lining Ocean Boulevard. The strip contains outdoor eating and bars, live music, dancing, and shopping. The growing popularity of the nightlife here is attracting more and more residents to the key on a typical weekend night.

The Hub, a new restaurant and bar on the key, adjacent to The Beach Club. It's a fresh and fun place with featured music acts nightly.

The Beach Club has been on the key for decades. Known as a cocktail bar, casual nightclub, and music venue, it hosts larger acts, has event nights, and stays open until 2:30 a.m. daily.

Gulf Gate
"Gulf Gate" as locals call it, is the area off Tamiami Trail, between Beneva and Clark Roads, consisting of a square of parallel and perpendicular street corridors. It is on the outskirts of the Gulf Gate neighborhood. Bars and pubs line the roads on both sides, making the place an eerie alley of sorts to walk from one hole-in-the-wall to the next. The most notable element is the vast range and the amount of ethnic cuisine and food stores compacted into this one place.

Il Panificio Italian Market is a deli, bakery, and eatery at the edge of the strip on Gateway Avenue. A second location is on Main Street Downtown.

Infamous Munchies 420 Cafe was started by two guys who came home from the bar one night, wanted food, but went to bed hungry because nothing delivered so late. The finger-food and sandwich joint is open 4:20 p.m. - 4:20 a.m.

Hillview Street and Osprey Avenue.
These two roads also have a bevy of outdoor eateries, bars, and shops. What makes it stand out, is Sarasota Memorial Hospital anchoring one corner of the strip along US 41, and several other medical practices blended into the mix. Its walkable nature attracts those looking for an all-day outing.

The hospital's parking garage.

A park area at the center of the hospital's structures.

Current construction at the hospital's Main Campus. The phased, three-to-four year improvement project will house several departments. The building will connect to the rest of the hospital, with a re-designed entryway, for easier accessibility, and have the best hurricane proofing available.

Trees line the median walkway all the way down the street.

Looking up Hillview Street at Osprey Avenue.

Morton's Gourmet Market on Osprey Avenue has been a mecca for great food in Sarasota for over 40 years.

Downtown Sarasota is a distinct area in itself. A compact setting that defines itself as the "core" of SRQ (Sarasota Metropolitan Area), Downtown is filled with mixed-use dwellings: business high-rises, parking garages, residential condominiums, street eateries, upscale restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and several art/cultural companies. Main street in the middle, with dressed streets branching off along it, Downtown sits adjacent to the waterfront of Sarasota Bay, its Keys, and the Gulf of Mexico in the distance.

In 1925 John Nolen, a professional planner, was hired to develop a plan for the downtown of the city. He laid out the streets to follow the arch of the bay front with a grid beyond, that extended north to what is now Tenth Street and south to Mound. This followed more closely the way the city was developing at the time.

The names and numbers of the downtown streets were changed to the current ones. At that time the numbered streets began at Burns Square and Burns' triangular building separating the intersection of Orange and Pineapple Avenues, was on First Street. Nolen shifted the existing numbered streets to the north, beginning above what now is Main Street. The city hall, situated in the Hover Arcade at the foot of Main Street, was on the waterfront and the city dock extended from it. It was the hub of the new city. Vehicles and materials could pass through the arcade and railroad tracks led directly to the terminus.

The new plan accentuated that city hall on the bay front, was the nexus of the city. Broadway, the road that connected the downtown bay front with the northern parts of the city along the bay had become part of the new Tamiami Trail that was being created. The trail was a portion of U.S. 41 that connected Tampa to Miami (hence the contracted name) in 1928. United with U.S. 301 in northern Manatee County, the trail made a "dog's leg" turn toward the west at Cortez Road. In Sarasota it turned back toward the east to follow Main Street through downtown before rejoining U.S. 301 at Washington Boulevard.

This plan was abandoned in the 1960s when pressure to increase speeds on Tamiami Trail drove the demolition of the city hall and the redirection of the route past the bay front, severing the community from the waterfront. By the last decade of the century, automobile traffic had become so dominant that intersections beyond human-scale barred all but the most adventurous from attempting crossings on foot. At community planning charrettes, designs began to circulate that called for the reunification of the downtown to the bay front and removal of the designation of the bay front road as a highway. New Urbanism concepts focused upon restoring Sarasota to being a walkable community and taking the greatest advantage of its most beautiful asset, Sarasota Bay. Roundabouts were discussed as traffic calming devices that could be integrated into gracious designs for safe and efficient movement of automobiles among increased use by bicyclists and pedestrians, along with reduction of pollution.,_Florida

Downtown Streetscape.

An alley looking towards the Bayfront.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune's office building on Main Street. The city's largest paper opens its parking lot/garage on the weekends for people.

Central park areas are located at the large intersection at the center of Downtown.

The Chop House restaurant sits right next door to the opera house, with outdoor seating in a garden-like patio.

FSU's College of Medicine Sarasota division.

Smokin' Joe's Pub on Main Street in Downtown. Like several bars and pubs in the area, smoking is allowed inside but the open-air seating and outside patio works to diminish the issue.

Boutiques light up along Main Street at night.

Article by Sarah Gojekian.