Old Parrish still exists at this antique store.

Image: Chris Lake

Parrish is an old, old, tiny town northeast of Bradenton across the Manatee River, way out in the country. Cattle and agriculture rule. I was skeptical about finding it on a list of real estate hotspots, but it turns out to be the hottest spot of all. 

As for what’s happening in Parrish, you can look at it two ways. It’s either “charming little town about to be swallowed up by Big Development” or “beautiful gated communities will blend seamlessly into the authentic Old Florida atmosphere.”

The various developers here envision a massive new residential community—over 23,000 new homes will be built in the near future—where the gimmick is great value. For around $300,000 you can buy a brand-new, well-equipped three-bedroom home. I looked at quite a few and there wasn’t one I couldn’t see myself living in.

Silverleaf, a Neal Community, offers homes starting at $222,990.

Image: Chris Lake

The reason everyone thinks this will work so well is Parrish’s freakishly convenient location—it’s a bearable commute from a remarkable number of places. Downtown Bradenton is 11 miles away, downtown St. Pete is 21. Downtown Sarasota is 26. Even Tampa, at 34 miles, is doable. Among other things, this means the husband can work in Tampa and the wife in Englewood. As Pat Neal, who runs Neal Communities, said recently, “I believe Parrish in the next five years will become the new center of the universe.”

And while the parents are busy commuting, the kids can ride their bikes to the mammoth new North River High School, right in the middle of town and set to open later this year. The high school has the distinction of being named after a Neal development, North River Ranch, which, with 6,000 homes will be the largest of the new places and is expected to set the tone for the “new” Parrish. The high school name has annoyed some old-timers, who wanted it named Parrish High in honor of the town’s founding family, who’ve been there since the Civil War. But Neal quashed this with a series of robocalls telling people that the Parrishes once owned slaves and thus probably shouldn’t have the local high school named after them.

The Florida Railroad Museum

Image: Chris Lake

How much of Parrish’s charm will remain with 23,000 new homes? Right now, it still has an authentic country feel, with two-lane roads running through pastures full of grazing cattle, interspersed with beautiful old trees. The town itself is more like a country crossroads, with a couple of small groceries, a feed store, a farm stand and a Mexican nightclub. In the blocks just off the highway there are still many old Cracker homes, picturesque and pleasantly weathered.

As for the future, Parrish is keeping its fingers crossed. But visit soon.

Check Out

Florida Railroad Museum: Exhibits and train rides. 12210 83rd St. E.

Fort Hamer Park: Boat ramp, picnic tables, rowing facility. 1605 Fort Hamer Road

Parrish Farm Market (Brown’s Grove): Citrus, local produce, goats and chickens. 12255 Highway 301 N.

Quick Facts

Settled in 1867

Population: 19,589

Median age: 43.6

Median home price: $283,300

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