When he was a teenager, Tom Jackson, 63, recalls Sarasota being so sparsely developed that he and his buddies could ride bikes down a nearly empty two-lane Clark Road all the way to Myakka State Park. Today, Jackson lives near downtown and relishes what Sarasota has become—a vibrant, walkable culture center teeming with amenities.
Jackson has been building and renovating commercial, nonprofit and residential properties since 1979, and has, with his wife Nancee, co-owned Jackson and Associates General Contractors Inc. since 1989. Some of their marquee projects include the 10-story Pierre Condominium on Longboat Key, Sarasota Main Street Plaza and the recently opened six-story condominium at 1500 State Street, a 50,000-square-foot architectural challenge built on a tiny sliver of 4,800 square feet of land. Jackson was a co-developer of this project; his daughter Kylie sold the units and his son Jamie was one of the superintendents of construction.
“We’ve been through three or four building cycles. One of the keys to our success is that when the market is strong, as it is today, we do not take on more work than we can handle. I look at it like we’re pulling a wagon, which contains all the work we’re doing, and at the same time pushing a cart in front of us to take in new work as room in the wagon opens. Keeping both the cart and the wagon in balance is critical, particularly in times like these when the labor market is tight and supply costs are rising.
“After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, building codes and the education of building officials and inspectors really began to improve in Florida, and the standards have continued improving. Because of that, the quality of homes being built today is significantly better than the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“We’ve completed more than 2,000 residential projects, including many renovations. To stay within budget, homeowners should first do forensic work. A home is like a human body in the sense that what is under the skin, the skeleton, is vitally important, even if you think you are making only cosmetic changes. One example we see a lot is homeowners buying hurricane-resistant windows without making sure their structure is rated to hold them. All that gives them is some very expensive windows and a false sense of security.
“Sarasota has come a long way. I remember in the mid-1980s when downtown closed its doors at 5 p.m. on a Friday. I’m a fan of how Sarasota has developed. In 2000, the city brought in New Urbanist planner Andres Duany to help create a master plan for a vibrant, walkable downtown, and I think that both the city and county have done a good job of achieving that goal for all age groups and interests. There are great restaurants, theaters, music, the waterfront, Selby Botanical Gardens. I love going to the gospel brunch at the Blue Rooster and the farmers market on a Saturday
“My wife Nancee has been my partner since the outset. We will be married 35 years this year. One of the reasons it’s worked so well is that we each handle different aspects of the business; she does the interior design and space planning. It’s a tremendous benefit when your business partner is your best friend.
“I never get tired of coming to work in the morning because my job involves creating things. I drive down Main Street and see buildings that we have built or restored, and I feel like they are monuments to time. It’s incredibly rewarding.”