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Archive for September, 2010

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Today is Cittaslow Sunday, the First International Day of Good Slow Living. How are you planning to celebrate?

Cittaslow, or Slow City, is an organization that celebrates and promotes a human-speed, human-scale alternative to unchecked speed and limitless growth. A couple decades ago some folks in Italy decided they didn’t want fast food chains in their towns, so they created the Slow Food movement to celebrate the culture, tradition, and joy of growing, harvesting, cooking, and sharing local food. Slow Food spread to Slow City, and Cittaslow International now counts more than 130 towns worldwide as part of its network. Sonoma, California, became the first Slow City in the United States in 2009.

So, what is a Slow City? and why should I care?

At its core, the Slow City movement is about living a measured, considered life. Taking the time to know one’s neighbors. To appreciate the many things life has to offer besides the latest trend and newest product. Slow Cities aren’t static places; they simply respect and honor their past. They aren’t unproductive places; they merely recognize that the most valuable “goods” a town has to offer can’t always be bought and sold.

Is Sarasota a slow city? Well, not officially. Sarasota is slightly too populous to qualify for membership in Cittaslow International (max. 50K people in a slow city). But in its traditions and its predominant way of life, isn’t Sarasota a slow city with or without official designation? It has a compact, walkable downtown and historic neighborhoods where echoes of its early days can still be heard. A burgeoning local food industry. A plethora of local artisans and craftspeople. Sarasota is the kind of town where people know each other. Yes, it has grown, but Sarasota is in no danger of becoming Tampa or Miami anytime soon. What if we embraced a Slow City lifestyle in some official way? Would Slow Sarasota be an identity all its residents could share?

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If you live in Laurel Park, chances are good you’ve seen downtown Sarasota’s new police headquarters being built between Ringling Boulevard and the north end of Payne Park. What could have been another monstrosity inspired by strip malls has fortunately turned into something quite special. The architectural firm in charge of the project incorporated both elements of the celebrated Sarasota School of Architecture and enough green features to seek LEED certification. To top it off, final negotiations are underway to install a 40-foot remnant from floors 90-92 of the World Trade Center—a fitting tribute to and stark reminder of the dangers policemen and women can encounter.

Whether you live in Laurel Park, Gillespie Park, Alta Vista, or elsewhere in Sarasota, we at Laurel Park Management recommend stopping by to check out the new police headquarters. It is an impressive addition to the surprisingly rich architectural history of our humble hamlet. For more information check out the City of Sarasota website as well as this article from the Herald Tribune, an excerpt of which is below:

“We felt like we had an opportunity to do an urban sculpture,” said architect Ian Reeves, of Architects Design Group in Winter Park. Sculptural accents include a blue steel framework around the roofline, a Z-shaped exposed brace at the entry plaza, rectangular white braces on the west and north facades, and a second curtain wall on the south side, with rectangles cut into it to allow views for police officers.

“We had an opportunity to create a very civic facility in keeping with the Sarasota school (of architecture) premise,” Reeves added. “So we wanted to respect what has been done historically, but use modern materials that reflect the security and safety and survivability of a police department.”

It should be survivable. The building is the only structure in the city designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. It is considered so strong that the City of Sarasota has moved its computer servers to the top floor. Yes, there is a lot of glass. But each of those 1,976 energy-efficient windows are impact-resistant and weigh 300 pounds.

If the building appears to fit right in with the Payne Park recreational building to the southeast, it is not coincidental. ADG, which specializes in public-service buildings, designed that structure, too.

“We have a 40-acre park as the master jewel of the downtown area,” said Reeves. “What an opportunity to be the backdrop.”

keep reading at heraldtribune.com

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There are just those days when all you want to do is have a drink with some friends, eat some fresh fish, and watch the sun sink into the ocean while a steel drum band taps out a friendly rhythm. Thankfully, you don’t need to go to Kokomo or even Key West to get away from it all. Nestled on the southern edge of Island Park just a stone’s throw from Marina Jack, O’Leary’s Bar & Grille is Sarasota’s local tiki-hut ticket to paradise, a favorite haunt of residents and visitors alike.

This review from tampabay.metromix.com says it all:

Nestled near the fascination of Sarasota’s downtown skyline, exists another world inside Island Park. Children leaping through fountains shaped like turtles and sea animals. Reminiscent of Central Park, couples stroll and have picnics laying out large romantic blankets for lunch. Views of the Marina, sounds of acoustic and steel drums bring you to the entrance of O’Learys, come on deck. The scintillating view of the Sarasota Bayfront makes me feel like I am on horseback in Jamaica. Throw on your flip flops and come to a place that emits sparks.

For those who live in Laurel Park, the short walk or bike ride (a bike rack is provided on the west side of the restaurant) to O’Leary’s is a fine way to kick off an evening. Especially now in the late summer heat, when the evening breeze off the water goes awfully well with a cold margarita.

Open until 10 pm on Friday and Saturdays and 9pm Sunday-Thursday, O’Leary’s is located at 5 Bayfront Drive in Sarasota, (941) 953-7505.

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On the heels of last week’s post about Gillespie Park, we’d like to share an article on the area from SRQ Magazine. Downtown Sarasota—including Main Street, Laurel Park, Gillespie Park, the Rosemary District, and all the surrounding neighborhoods—has been in flux for decades. After it boomed it busted, and just twenty years ago it seemed our deserted downtown core might be down for the count. But a number of determined locals refused to let it die, and downtown Sarasota today is a beautiful (and increasingly bustling) place to live, work, and play for renters and home owners alike.

We at Laurel Park Management understand that change of any sort is never easy, and that all too often changes in neighborhoods (particularly when made by developers) pave the way for gentrification and price out the very people who remained committed to those neighborhoods through the tough times. Change of this sort can line the pockets of a few, but it rarely makes a neighborhood a truly better place.

That said, change is inevitable, everywhere and always, and can be a tremendously positive thing. After all, it wasn’t long ago that our charming Historic Laurel Park neighborhood was less than savory. Gillespie Park and the Rosemary District are vital downtown neighborhoods with their own distinct mix of characteristics and their own distinct futures. Just imagine what they can be—not as imitations of Laurel Park, but as the best and most fully realized versions of themselves!

In the spirit of keeping the conversation alive, here’s an excerpt from the article:

Rosemary and Gillespie

Retirees might move southward, but Sarasota’s real estate development has a northern pathway. As the downtown reaches its capacity (and beyond that capacity, some might say), the desire to develop is finding its newest potential in the neighborhoods north of Fruitville Road—the Rosemary District and Gillespie Park.

How will These Two Neighborhoods Reach Their Potential?
The development in the Rosemary District and Gillespie Park doesn’t mirror its neighbors to the south. For one, it’s calmer. The market has stagnated, and condo pre-sale requirements that are required to get new projects off the ground are harder to meet. “It’s always a challenge,” says Atlanta-based developer Wayne Morehead of meeting the pre-sales for his Rosemary District condominium project, CityPointe. “I’m hopeful that by coming out with a well-conceived development that’s priced correctly, we can receive a good reception. We don’t want this to be luxury.”

But what the areas might lack in market conditions, they are attempting to make up in developer cohesiveness and unique planning. Both neighborhoods have just a few major landowners who control much of the property in the area—Morehead owns 6.5 acres in Rosemary, Devin Rutkowski owns two block-long parcels and two active corners in Gillespie—and these developers have expressed a desire to work with other landowners in their separate neighborhoods while shaping the future of the area. “We’re not in competition,” says Rutkowski of other Gillespie Park developers. “We complement each other. Obviously, having a vision for the neighborhood is important.”

To foster that vision, these areas also have another opportunity the more-developed areas in Sarasota don’t: potential. A drive through Gillespie Park or Rosemary today reveals rundown homes and vacant lots. But through the rose-colored glasses of the New Urbanism movement, many developers are saying they can create livable, walkable communities—in both neighborhoods. But the majority also say that in order to do this they will need the city to increase densities and make zoning exceptions for their ultimate plans to come to fruition. Here’s a peek at some of those plans.

click here to keep reading at srqmagazine.com

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