Beautifully diverse. That sums up the stack of entries we received after querying 150 local architects, asking for their best commercial work for our third annual Commercial Designs of Distinction competition. This year Mediterranean Revival took a backseat to neoclassical, modern and New Urbanism. The winning designs range from office space to medical, government, nonprofit, retail and mixed-use projects. What they share is an ability to satisfy the complex needs of site limitations, owner expectations and users' needs. That's never an easy task, but we believe the following architectural designs married form and function and elevated our own expectations about the infinite possibilities.

RINGLING SQUARE

Project Architect: DSDG Inc.; Mark Sultana and Thomas Denslow

Contractor: Kellogg & Kimsey

If civic leaders bestowed a Good Neighbor award, the five-story Ringling Square building at Orange Avenue and Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota would win. The neoclassical building, with its creamy limestone colonnade and Palladian-style windows, works best when viewed in the context of the classical old, fluted-columned federal building across the street, which was rehabbed a few years ago and now houses several city of Sarasota departments. Architect Mark Sultana says Ringling Square's design was a deliberate "wink" to its neighbor, "designed to mimic the beauty of the federal building." AmSouth Bank and FanZ Enterprises, a sports merchandising firm, are the main tenants of the 45,000-square-foot building.

SARASOTA MEMORIAL HOSPITAL

Emergency Department Addition

Project Architect: The Ritchie Organization (TRO); Erik Wismar and Kent Key

Contractor: Keyco, Inc.

The bright, clean-lined addition to Sarasota Memorial's emergency room blends into its modern surround with surgical precision. Inside, the glass, wood and steel nurse's station is efficient and futuristic. Twenty-five new treatment rooms and various administrative rooms were added in a 15,300-square-foot space that used to house physician parking. Most remarkable, all the work went on at night and on weekends in order not to disrupt the flow of the existing, very busy emergency room.

CITY OF BRADENTON PARKING GARAGE

Project Architect: Fawley Bryant Architects, Inc., Richard Fawley and Mike Ivko

Contractor: NDC

Sarasotans exasperated with years of talk about the dearth of downtown parking, take note: the new downtown city of Bradenton parking garage near the county courthouse started construction last October and was up and running by late April. The handsome four-story garage has 517 parking spaces, a records storage area for the city, and future first-floor retail space. Precast concrete made the tight time frame possible. Architect Mike Ivko calls the look New Urbanism. And the colors? "There's a lot of them," says Ivko. "They break the building up, and it's something you wouldn't expect out of a parking garage. In fact, most people think it's an office building."

LEE WETHERINGTON CENTER

Project Architect: Hoyt Architects; Gary Hoyt

Contractor: Halfacre Construction

Vivid primary colors-yellow, red and blue-make it easy to guess that this is a place where fun takes priority. The new home of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota, built to replace its shabby, old, gray complex of buildings on Fruitville Road, uses large areas of color to "provide a friendly atmosphere and ease of orientation," says architect Gary Hoyt. The result makes it easier for the nonprofit organization to fulfill its mission: to inspire and enable all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.

MAIN STREET AT LAKEWOOD RANCH

Project Architect: Hoyt Architects; Gary Hoyt

Contractor: Hoar Construction

Developers of Lakewood Ranch are confident that their brand-new Main Street will be the central gathering spot that brings the community together to shop, eat, stroll, go to the movies (thanks to the Sarasota Film Society's new Cineplex) and-with mid-rise condominiums added to the mix-even live above the shop. Hoyt Architects designed the Disney-esque mixed-use complex with eye-pleasing geometry and sherbet colors. The pedestrian-friendly design may even attract diehard city dwellers to make the drive out east.

SAN MARCO

Project Architect: Lawson Group Architects, Inc.; Donald Lawson, Farrell Wood and Fernando Ramirez

Contractor: Kellogg and Kimsey

The mom-and-pop motels on Sarasota's North Tamiami Trail are starting to make way for mixed-use projects like San Marco, one of the first to reach completion. A whole lot is going on behind its mango-and-cream, fun façade: ground-floor retail and office space directly on the Trail that fronts a parking garage, plus 25 condominiums on floors two through six. The architect had a mixed challenge, too: fitting it all into the very small site, integrating the design into the surrounding neighborhood, and adhering to the architectural guidelines of the city's Downtown Code.

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