Affluence has long found a home in Sarasota, but these days we’re experiencing it at a whole new level.
The mega-wealth alighting here is transforming the community. Consider the individual donations of $15 million, $10 million and $5 million made last year to Ringling College, the Van Wezel Foundation and Ringling Museum, respectively. Or the success that cultural institutions like Selby Gardens and Mote Marine Laboratory are having in their historically ambitious capital campaigns—a $92 million goal for Selby’s campus redesign; $130 million for the futuristic Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA) to be built near Nathan Benderson Park. Businesses are feeling the effects, too; a longtime Sarasota interior designer, for example, told us recently that her clientele is changing radically: “They’re all younger—in their 50s—and they’re all billionaires.”
That brings us to the string of ultra-luxury condominium projects filling in the downtown Sarasota skyline: Auteur, Blvd, Epoch, the Ritz-Carlton Residences at the Quay and, completed last season, 624 Palm.
This doesn’t even include other downtown projects like The Collection Condominium on Second Street, where pre-sales are starting at mid-$1 million; The Mark—under construction and taking up a huge chunk of property in the heart of downtown—or The DeMarcay, set to begin rising within the next year on South Palm Avenue. Prices at both start in the upper hundreds of thousands. And across the bridge on Longboat Key, The Residences on Longboat Key has been announced for the site of The Colony tennis resort; prices range from the $4 millions.
Who is buying these $2-million-plus-plus-plus downtown Sarasota apartments, and what is giving their developers the confidence to move forward?
Credit in large part the 2017 federal tax law changes that no longer allow people to write off their state and local taxes. Wealthy people from the Northeast and Midwest are looking at low-tax havens like Florida, and then they’re choosing wealthier Florida markets like Sarasota. (It’s impacting single-family homes, too; more than a dozen in Sarasota County sold for more than $4 million in 2018.)
“We’re seeing more and more people bringing that up, and I think that’s going to help sustain the [luxury] market,” says Jay Tallman, who, along with Charles Githler and Tampa entrepreneur (and Hyatt Regency hotel owner) Dr. Kiren Patel are developing Auteur. “There’s some real wealth at play.”
When Tallman and Githler developed Beau Ciel, the distinctive round luxury condominium tower on Boulevard of the Arts just west of the Hyatt Regency, nearly 20 years ago, prices ranged from $800,000 to a $4 million penthouse.
Auteur, an 18-story tower just east of the Hyatt that they consider “the bookend” to Beau Ciel (it’s designed by the same architect, Chuck Jones of Tampa-based Curt Gaines Hall Jones Architects, but with a more modern look) will have 56 units that start at $2 million, says Tallman, with “estate residences” in the $4 millions. And “there’s a good chance we’ll be combining some units on the top part,” he says. “We could end up with residences in the $7 million range.”
Auteur, like Blvd, rising at the southeast corner of Boulevard of the Arts and Tamiami Trail, the Ritz-Carlton Residences at the Quay, and Epoch and 624 Palm, next-door neighbors
on South Palm Avenue, have one key commonality: waterfront views.
“I stay in close contact with many of the market’s top realtors,” says Tallman, “and while it appears there’s a lot out there, either currently marketed or in the pipeline, if you start drilling down you realize there’s a limited pool of units with water views. And in our market, the first and foremost criteria is water views.”
Patrick DiPinto of Seaward Development, developer of the boutique waterfront condominium tower, Epoch, on South Palm Avenue, concurs. He says he’s approaching the 50 percent mark for reservations for the 23 units, which range from $3.3 million to $8.5 million for the penthouse. Sixty percent of those are out-of-towners; the rest are locals who want to move off the keys.
“They want to get away from the congestion. They’re done with the traffic. They don’t know what the [redevelopment of the] Colony property will bring. A handful tell me they want to head off the islands because of red tide. And we’ve heard from people they’re heading this way because they want to be closer to the hospital,” DiPinto says.
“Epoch is the last open waterfront with unobstructed views on the bayfront,” he says. “We are confident that we will find those owners.”
Open, unobstructed Sarasota Bay views and the opportunity for complete customization of each unit are key selling points for this South Palm Avenue project, expected to break ground this winter.
Developer: Seaward Development
Number of units: 23
Priced: From the $3 millions
Additional components: For residents, rooftop terrace, pool terrace, Residents Club Level and private guest suite for overnight guests, plus wellness center with private massage suite, steam showers and the latest weight and cardio equipment
The team behind the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota and The Concession golf club community is building this luxury tower at the southeast corner of Boulevard of the Arts and Tamiami Trail. It’s prominently marketing its adjacency to The Bay, hailing its location as “the new downtown Sarasota.” By January, it was more than 50 percent sold. Completion is expected in first quarter 2020.
Developer: Core Development
Number of units: 49
Priced: From $1.9 million
Additional components: For residents, a zero-horizon rooftop pool, wine cellar, fifth-floor pet lawn and grooming station, indoor golf driving range and state-of-the-art fitness center. For the public, a second location for Sean Murphy’s acclaimed Beach Bistro gourmet restaurant.
Ritz-Carlton Residences at The Quay
This is the very first project now underway at The Quay Sarasota, the 15-acre multi-use property set on the yacht harbor between the Ritz-Carlton hotel and the Hyatt Regency, which eventually also will include restaurants and shops. A private overhead walkway to the Ritz hotel and its restaurant and spa is planned. Completion is expected in December 2020.
Number of units: 73
Priced: From $2.45 million
Additional components: For residents, club room, News & Sports coffee and TV lounge, 70-foot lap pool, private dog park and state-of-the-art fitness center
Completed in March 2018, this pencil-thin tower on a narrow slice of South Palm Avenue set a new benchmark for luxury on that already tony stretch of downtown bayfront.
Developer: A first Sarasota venture for Naples-based Ronto Group
Number of units: 17
Sold: From $2.75 million to $4 million
Located on Boulevard of the Arts just east of the Hyatt Regency, the tower will be turned on its site to maximize bay views. Its adjacency to the developing transformation of the Van Wezel parking lot into The Bay will provide a bucolic setting. “I like to think of it as being on Central Park,” says co-developer Jay Tallman.
Developer: Ascentia Development Group
Number of units: 56; plus, two small ground-floor units, separate from the condominiums, that are intended for workforce housing
Priced: From the $2 millions
Additional components: Fine-dining restaurant on the second level; café/bakery on ground floor with street-level outdoor dining; other retail space TBD