Posts Tagged ‘Towles Court’

Some places just feel right. The buildings, the street, the proportions, the trees, the aesthetics, the uses—in some places they all converge to create little nuggets of urban perfection. Certain medieval Italian vias and French boulevards come to mind, but so do many minor nameless roads in American towns and cities. These are the places people find themselves gravitating towards, sometimes for no more explicable reason than that they feel good to be in. Today’s post puts Laurel Park’s own Hawkins Court under the microscope.

Why? Because every time I walk it I start thinking about how cities are laid out almost exclusively for cars (and what a shame that is), about the variety of rights of ways that we rarely avail ourselves of, and about how important moments of discovery are to the urban experience. I start thinking about how and why this insignificant little road, barely more than an alley, draws me back again and again, and about what it can teach us about urban design. Hawkins Court isn’t flashy, but it suggests an alternative to the typical orthogonal gridding of cities and towns. It suggests how we might make cities not only functional but also lovable.

Draw a bow-legged stick figure with hands raised as if under arrest then rotate it ninety degrees. It’s the best description I can come up with for the layout of Hawkins Court, a charming residential lane that’s more than an alley but not quite a street.

The Laurel Park neighborhood, bordered on the west by Osprey Avenue and on the east by Julia Place.

What’s nearby
Towles Court Artist Colony, Laurel Park, Payne Park, Burns Square Retail Area, Main Street.

General description
Hawkins Court is hidden from adjacent roads by alley-esque entryways that make narrow right-hand turns before joining the main 500 foot long, 20 foot wide right of way. It is mostly paved with brick, and features a number of charming single-family bungalows along its southern edge with mostly one and two story apartment buildings on its northern edge. A mixed-height tree canopy provides shade for the eastern half of Hawkins as well as sections of both east and west entryways.

Hawkins Court calls to mind Dutch woonerven, which allow autos to travel at foot speed through pedestrian space, as well as the (also Dutch) principle of “shared space,” in which all road users are given equal status and lines, signs, and signals are removed. Despite being only three blocks from Main Street, Hawkins Court manages to conjure something of the idyllic neighborhood vibe associated with the early days of suburbia and Small Town, USA.

How it is used
As a scenic throughway by locals on foot and bicycle and as an access road by residents.

How it might be used
As more of a community gathering place. For block parties. Possibly for neighborhood services and amenities.

What works
The sharp turns of the entryways (where the road narrows to 10 feet), the uneven brick surface, narrow lots, and minimal building setbacks privilege pedestrians and slow cars to a crawl. Lack of sidewalks make it clear that the right of way is to be shared by all users. Two-story bungalows and ample foliage combine to create an authentic sense of place and necessary shade. Overall design creates a buffer from nearby collector roads. It’s undeniably charming and feels safe at any hour. (more…)


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We like to call Laurel Park Sarasota’s urban village. But what do we mean by that? Isn’t “urban village” an oxymoron? Not necessarily. At Laurel Park Management, we see “urban” as a condition of density and diversity, basically a place where a variety of people come together to make a variety of things happen. Urban places are often intensely built-up, like New York City, but they don’t have to be. And we see “village” as an approach to local life taken by residents, by those who get to know their neighbors, who stop to say hello when passing you by on the street, who lend a hand during times of need and invest themselves in the future of their community.

Due to its proximity to Main Street, Washington Blvd (301), Towles Court, and Burns Square, and thanks to its many involved residents, we think Laurel Park is indeed a budding urban village. At the heart of such a place is collaboration, exchange, sociality. We think a place grows great when the varied strengths of residents merge and mitigate individual shortcomings. Two heads is better than one, so to speak. And the shift to sustainability will unquestionably require a group effort.

Some say that technological and entrepreneurial developments, from the internet to social media and car-sharing, herald a boom of cooperation and interaction that may well rival the rise of cities in the first place. Don’t believe us? Check out the TEDtalks video above featuring Rachel Botsman. Interesting stuff…

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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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Nestled in the northeast corner of Laurel Park, Towles Court is our very own artists’ colony. Every third Friday of the month, from 6-10pm, resident artists open their doors, show off their work, and mingle with neighbors and tourists alike.

In a recent article on Towles Court, travel blogger Barbara Weibel wrote:

Towles Court is home to dozens of artist’s studios, galleries, and restaurants that line streets shaded by stately hundred-year old moss-draped Oak trees. On the third Friday of each month, store owners break out the cheese, wine, and crackers and throw open their doors until 10 p.m., inviting the community to stroll around the neighborhood and check out the unique arts and crafts on offer. Visitors can chat with the artists, dine alfresco at one of the restaurants scattered around the complex, or just grab a spot on a bench in the main courtyard and enjoy the live music that always accompanies these events.

for more info check out towlescourt.com

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