In 2015, Premier Sotheby’s broker-associate Frank Lambert began marketing a future six-unit townhouse project called Vanguard Lofts in the-then mostly undeveloped Rosemary District between Fruitville Road and Tenth Street, and Tamiami Trail and Orange Avenue. A hand-drawn map he created showed dots where four future residential projects would rise. Skeptics called it a pipe dream, since the Rosemary District had long been plagued by stagnation.
Three years later, thanks to a new city overlay district that permits greater density, Lambert’s homemade map has grown to a remarkable 28 residential and commercial projects. Twelve of them, like the new Rosemary Square, are mixed-use condo/retail mixed; five are residential condos; three are apartment complexes (CitySide, Elan Rosemary and Urban Flats, with a combined 700-plus apartments); two are hotels; five are restaurant/retail projects; and there's also a pocket garden that’s shared by three condo complexes Lambert is repping for the Risdon Group. Half the 28 projects are already built.
Anyone who drives—or walks, since the streets are now far more pedestrian-friendly—through the Rosemary District now can’t help but be astounded.
“Three years ago, we begged people to buy in Vanguard Lofts,” says Lambert. “They said we were crazy, [that we'd] never sell a condo in the Rosemary District for $500,000. Well, we’re sold out now, and the last two went for over $900,000 each.”
Lambert recently toured us around the Risdon properties at Central Avenue and Fifth Street. Developer Steve Bradley has renovated the former acid-green commercial/condo building on the corner into the sleek, bright white 5th and Central building, with four ground-floor retail condos below six two-story townhomes. Just to the west, Risdon on 5th is rising, with 22 residential condos and six ground-floor commercial condos. (Four of those six are already sold, says Lambert). And slated to break ground by year’s end right across the street is The Risdon, with 11 residential condos and one commercial condo. Bradley also set aside space for Risdon’s Garden, a pretty little pocked garden designed by DWY Landscape Architects.
When people move in, restaurants and retail follow. The Rosemary District is now home to a dance studio, sushi restaurant and bodega; gourmet cheese and coffee shops and a yoga studio have announced plans to open. Sarasota Contemporary Dance’s new studio is here, so is housing for Sarasota Opera artists. And the downtown Sarasota Farmers Market started a seasonal Thursday evening outdoor market near CitySide this spring to great success.
“Saturday mornings, you wouldn’t believe the number of people here,” says Lambert. “It’s such fun to see this area change.”