Archive for April, 2010

MRS. GRAY’S PLACE 404 Julia Place

Named after the beloved wife of colorful local artist Arlie Gray, Mrs. Gray’s Place is a large two-story 1920s historic building with a beautiful 2BR/1BA apartment on the first floor and a large 1BR/1BA apartment with separate entrance on the second floor. Behind the main house is a quaint detached studio apartment.

Mrs. Gray’s Place is located across the street from Towles Court Artist Colony, Payne Park, and two blocks from the Hollywood 20 Cinema on Main Street. Everything downtown Sarasota has to offer is at your doorstep. To see more pictures, check out the property page.


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Enjoy a Sunday afternoon of great music and good people when the Suncoast Concert Band or Jazz Ambassadors Big Band play at Payne Park. Concerts cost five bucks, payable at the door, with refreshments provided for a dollar each. All concerts are presented in a casual atmosphere, with open seating. Two performances remain in the spring schedule: April 25th and May 9th, both at 3pm. Laurel Park Management encourages all residents to get out there and enjoy everything Payne Park has to offer.

Payne Park is directly across Washington Boulevard from Towles Court and the Northeast corner of the Laurel Park neighborhood. The park features a tree-lined half-mile walking loop, rolling hills (well, for Florida), duck ponds, tennis courts, a skate park, a community center, an amphitheater, and the Payne Park Auditorium, where all band concerts are held. The auditorium is located at 2100 Laurel Street. Find more info online here.

While Laurel Park can never be supplanted as the central park of the neighborhood that shares its name, Payne Park is nothing to sniff at. The park comes alive when the weather gets warm, and residents from Laurel Park and neighboring communities all converge to let their dogs play, their kids skateboard, or to share in a pickup game of soccer or frisbee.

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The Box Social, Main Street Sarasota

Sarasota is many things to many people: a retirement community, an arts town, home to some of the best beaches anywhere. But a local movement is afoot that might just put Sarasota on the map as, of all things, a college town. New College of Florida is regularly ranked one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Ringling College of Art + Design has renowned animation and graphic design programs. East-West College trains students to become doctors of Eastern medicine. State College of Florida, formerly Manatee Community College, offers a vast array of affordable courses and programs that round out the local educational menu. Oh, and the Asolo Performing Arts Center is also home to Florida State University’s graduate theater arts program. This extraordinary post-secondary diversity has been gradually coalescing, and while I’m not sure any studies have been done to verify this, one gets the sense that more and more high school and college students and recent grads are deciding to stay in sunny Sarasota and put their stamp on the place.

Case in point: twentysomethings Rachel Withers and Ryan Baucom opened The Box Social on Main Street this winter, and have proven “the voice” from Field of Dreams prescient. They built a place for the young, the hip, and the socially inclined to call their own, and indeed they have come. Here’s an excerpt from an article on 83degreesmedia.com:

Anyone who has ever said, “There’s nothing going on in this town tonight,” has probably never been to The Box Social, a new gourmet pub and café conveniently located right in the heart of downtown Sarasota.

The Box, as it’s called by local patrons, hosts a variety of attractions that consistently draw large crowds, making it one of the most interesting and entertaining hot spots in Sarasota Mondays through Saturdays, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Part coffee shop, part bar, part music venue, part art gallery, The Box stands as a beacon in the city, offering a cozy, yet bustling locale for members of the city’s unique creative community to gather, interact and exchange ideas and inspiration on a nightly basis.

But more than that, The Box is just one of Sarasota’s cool, independent establishments on a mission to unite, catalyze, reinvigorate and transform  a downtown core once best known for shuffleboard and bingo into a burgeoning urban landscape full of energy and diversity.

What’s really exciting is that The Box isn’t an isolated effort, nor the only local success story of its kind. Back in February, the Cock & Bull Pub hosted the Noise Ordinance CD Release Party. Here’s what the Sarasota Herald-Tribune had to say:

It was billed as the “Woodstock” of Sarasota. And it delivered.

If you missed Saturday’s “Noise Ordinance CD Release Party” then you missed an opportunity to catch the area’s hottest bands, and mingle with Sarasota’s glitterati.

Spanning more than 12 hours and featuring nearly 40 bands, the concert not only shined a bright light on area bands but was a rallying cry for the local music lovers.

The thing is, there’s no reason Sarasota can’t cater to retirees and youths alike, as well as everyone in between. Laurel Park Management is proud to support all facets of local culture, and we encourage college students and other young adults to come live downtown. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. And there really is an awful lot going on around here, most of which can be reached on foot or by bike from any of Laurel Park Management’s apartments. There’s music in the air and perhaps a bit of magic as well…come be a part of it!

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On most nights of the year the beautiful Florida skies provide stellar views, but for a week each April Laurel Park residents are given a front row seat to a different sort of stargazing. The Sarasota Film Festival is now in its 12th year, and the 2010 edition promises to be even better than last year’s. A vast assortment of films—from star-studded features to international documentaries to innovative shorts—are slated to show at nearby venues, including the Hollywood 20 Cinemas, Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, even Whole Foods! Most events can be reached on foot from Laurel Park Management’s downtown Sarasota apartments.

From the SFF Web site:

In July 1998, international and independent film enthusiasts founded the Sarasota Film Festival, Inc. (SFF). They sought to create a balanced festival of foreign and domestic film complemented by the participation of the film and entertainment industry.

The following January, SFF launched its first festival. The “mini-festival” featured eight independent films, two premiere screenings, two educational symposiums and a gala fundraiser. Since then, SFF has grown in length (from three days to ten), attendance (from 2,300 attendees to over 45,000) and scope (from 10 screenings to hosting over 200 films and adding nationally-recognized education programs, dozens of  special events, talkbacks and panels with some of the leading voices in film today). Beyond the Festival, SFF has expanded to include year-round activities like the free outdoor Moonlight Movies series in Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch and Venice; Monday Night Movies at the newly-restored Asolo Theater; Screenwriters’ Circle; and more.

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“To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t given much thought to vernacular architecture until fairly recently. I grew up in New England, surrounded by old buildings, and I suppose I’ve always taken them for granted. One of my childhood homes was a 200+ year old farm house complete with big red barn. I loved its charm, its character, its sagging floors, but from a young age my aesthetic sensibility preferred the clean lines and zen minimalism of modern design.

“After college I moved around the country, exposing myself to various vernacular or vernacular-inspired forms. I came to appreciate regional design as an essential expression of place. I understand why modern design and the International Style have proliferated, beyond any financial motivations, and I think that aesthetic diversity sends a message of participation and relevance in a global era. It suggests that a place ‘gets it.’ What a tragedy it is, though, when an intact tradition is wholly supplanted or abandoned to squalor.

“The retention of vernacular architectural practices maintains a place’s connection to its past. It also informs the direction it charts into the future. I’m currently living in a small town in Florida—Sarasota—that has had its share of troubles during a growth process that has seen disparate vernacular styles such as Florida Cracker and the Sarasota School emerge, prosper, decline, and slowly reemerge. A new crop of craftsmen/builders are reviving traditional design, including Devin P. Rutkowski, founder and president of Bungalow Builders, LLC.

“Devin is a Florida licensed contractor and a member of the US Green Building Council, the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America, the Congress for New Urbanism and the NAHB. He is one of a select few to receive the Certified Green Professional (CGP) designation from the National Association of Homebuilders.

“Bungalow Builders’ design philosophy, from their Web site:

The “Arts & Crafts” movement popularized at the turn of the 20th century and coinciding with the birth of the classic American Bungalow has been rediscovered at Bungalow Builders, LLC. We trade excess square footage for efficient use of space and include rich architectural details, intimate nooks, character and comfort. Our homes are designed for low maintenance and low operating costs.

Each of our new (old) homes includes a traditional front porch, classic proportions and  authentic materials all within an energy conscience compact footprint. We believe in a “less is more” design philosophy that results in an authentic Bungalow home. We respect every future home owner and home site and work tirelessly to create that special place to call home.

I sat down with Devin yesterday to get his perspective on vernacular architecture.

planologie: What exactly is vernacular architecture? Is it design influenced by the local climate? Does it suggest buildings largely built by hand? Does it require local materials?

DR: I think it’s all of those. In general, I think vernacular architecture should respond to the demands of the local environment, and it is typically built by local craftsmen using indigenous materials. But a fourth quality is how it expresses a local interpretation of outside influences. Just as the Spaniards brought Spanish Mission, American vernacular architecture is always influenced by outsiders.

planologie: Do you consider the homes you build to be in a vernacular style?

DR: They have components of Florida vernacular, which is a cousin to a Craftsman style, which is itself a step-brother to the Arts & Crafts movement. It all stems back to just building honestly, building with those three concepts you mentioned. I try to include as many traditional design features as possible, but within a modern envelope. Is it vernacular architecture? It has characteristics. But a pure form of vernacularism? I don’t think that exists.

planologie: What makes a traditional-style house different than other new construction?

DR: An obvious difference is the [lack of attached] garage. As soon as you remove an enclosed room for a two ton piece of metal you change the box. I refuse to build a house with an attached garage, the only exceptions being in situations that allow rear-loading. What are called traditional homes were mostly built before cars, and removing the garage is an immediate step away from suburban-style design and toward something more traditional. Now you have room to add a real front porch.

planologie: Why build traditional-style homes?

DR: Not everybody wants to live in the same house, so by simply offering people a choice you open up the market. We went from living in traditionally designed homes—it wasn’t long ago that all homes were traditional homes, no matter where you’re from—to mass-produced homes that are built as quickly as possible, as cheaply as possible, and there’s a segment of the population that doesn’t buy into that. They’re seeking an alternative. I try to provide that.


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Laurel Park is a great place to live, not least because of how much there is to do within walking distance. One of many such attractions is the Sailor Circus. From their Web site :

Sailor Circus now in its sixth decade of operation has grown from a small high school gymnastics class in 1949 to the present spectacular 4 ring youth circus production known world wide as the Greatest “Little” Show on Earth. Students from the 4th through 12th grades in Sarasota and surrounding counties have an opportunity to experience the performing arts in a circus atmosphere. Our dedicated students practice 20 – 30 hours a week and are trained by volunteer coaches who are retired circus performers, sailor circus alumni and enthusiastic parents. More than 200 volunteers donating over 25,000 hours of their time each season to PAL Sailor Circus demonstrates strong community involvement.

Click here to see a timeline.

PAL Sailor Circus is a major tourist attraction for Florida’s Gulf Coast. Through the years, more than 10 thousand students have performed to more than 1 million attendees during our annual home based performances.

For more than 60 years, Sailor Circus has thrilled audiences around the globe with outstanding feats performed by students from Sarasota, Florida. More remarkable than their abilities is the fact that they are all children. As performers in America’s oldest youth circus, these children are recognized as major contributors to the circus legacy in Sarasota. PAL Sailor Circus is a non-profit organization with the goal of helping our youth develop life management skills, self-discipline and gain confidence while learning through the circus arts.

PAL Sailor Circus invites you to attend our shows and become involved with our programs through volunteer opportunities or donations.

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