Homefront - April 2002

By staff April 1, 2002


U.S. Assets Group and Beau Ciel, L.L.L.P., the developers of Sarasota's newest luxury tower, Beau Ciel at Boulevard of the Arts, announce the completion of the sales center's renovation and the opening of the new design center next door, located respectively at 500 and 520 N. Tamiami Trail in downtown Sarasota. "These renovations not only give the building a more appealing look, they also give a sense for Beau Ciel's architectural styling," says Jay Tallman, a principal of U.S. Assets Group. The convenient design center includes a "workshop" for buyers with "kitchen, bath and door options, lavish finishing selections, including granite and marble samples and plumbing fixtures, and a mocked-up kitchen." Beau Ciel will be a 17-story tower with 44 residences with "through-view" floorplans that capture views of Sarasota Bay on one side, and the marina and city skyline on the other. Construction on the condominium has commenced and the anticipated completion is summer 2003. Approximately 75 percent of the residences are sold. The principals of Beau Ciel, L.L.L.P. include Charles Githler and Stanley and Daniel Kane.


Richard Blumenthal, a real estate consultant with Laughlin's Luxury Lifestyles, knows the downtown market from two perspectives: as a resident and as a realtor. "The demand for downtown living continues to keep sales brisk and prices rising," says Blumenthal. "Of the 65 condominiums currently listed in the extended downtown area, 23 are over $1 million. Half of those are in the Ritz-Carlton. However, there are still more than 40 opportunities to purchase a new condo in the city in the price range from $95,000 to under $1 million." Some of the in-town or city-adjacent areas that have appreciated appreciably, but are not yet out of sight, include the Condo on the Bay community (where Blumenthal resides), 888, Lawrence Point, Le Chateau and updated Sunset Towers and a renovated penthouse in Bays Bluff.

Charlotte Hedge of The Hedge Team at Michael Saunders & Company says downtown real estate isn't just a good financial investment, it's good for your health, too. "Downtowners" are surrounded by nature and culture-all within walking distance. She should know. The Hedges have lived-and walked-downtown for the past 10 years and say they love the lifestyle and the fact that "the values of the properties downtown over the past 10 years have truly exceeded the likes of any other investments we've made.

"We start our day with a vigorous walk to Island Park, which has been truly transformed into a park that would rival the likes of waterfront parks in other big cities," she says. "Saturdays are our favorite time to walk to the market and purchase our fruits, veggies and flowers for the week from the local farmers' market on Lemon and Main. It's a great meeting place as well. Then it's off to work downtown, and if we didn't need our cars during the day, that would be an easy walk, too. At the end of the day we often walk to one of our many favorite restaurants downtown, then take in a performance at one of our many theaters."


Judy Arreola, broker/sales associate with ERA Mount Vernon Realty, says she is happy to see things getting back to normal in the real estate market. "After the tragic events of Sept. 11, the real estate market almost came to a standstill, but we've seen it return to the pace we are accustomed to here in Southwest Florida." Primary drivers for this return to normalcy in the market, says Arreola, are "the baby boomers taking advantage of their early retirements and investors showing signs of faith in the future of the market."


It's said that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and lately kitchens-both new and remodeled-are being built with stone.

Jaren Levitt, owner of Stone Trend International, says that over the years his product has moved from the homes of the very rich to medium-level construction. "Builders are upgrading from Corian to granite as the pricing becomes more competitive, and home values appreciate substantially on all levels," says Levitt. Builders such as Neal Homes, Arthur Rutenberg Homes and John Cannon Homes Inc. are including granite in their standard packages.

"Stone is one of the few upgrades you can add and expect to get your money back-and more-when you resell," Levitt says. "We're seeing it now in almost any price house in this county. In areas where homes started in the $60,000s four years ago, there's now appreciation to as much as $250,000. People are staying put in these areas and installing things like granite because they want to upgrade and stay in that neighborhood, and they know they will get their money back."

Stone is not only beautiful, it's practical as well. "You can put a hot pot on it without using a trivet, cut on it without a cutting board. For bakers, who roll out dough and/or use sticky substances, it's especially nice because nothing sticks to it, and it's easy to clean and much more sanitary than laminates, which tend to get waterlogged over time and grow bacteria," Levitt says.


Walt Lingard, director of commercial sales for DeSears, has been selling high-end kitchen appliances for decades, and he says brand-conscious consumers are still going for Sub-Zero products. Of course, Lingard adds, they are the best. The latest product to find its way into upscale homes is a large, glass- front, side-by-side refrigerator/freezer that has a definite commercial look. Yes, you really can see what's inside the doors-"an incentive to throw out old food," he says. Homeowners are also ordering refrigerated cabinet drawers for produce in kitchen islands. That way, the chef can prepare a salad at the island with all the fixings right at hand. Refrigerated drawers are also finding their way into media rooms so drinks stay cold and handy.

Lingard says wine coolers and wine systems are also becoming standard in luxury homes. A $700 compact wine cooler is an excellent product for many people, he says, but for the wine connoisseur, the Sub-Zero wine system, which runs from $1,900 to $4,800 and is often tied to a home security system, is the best for holding temperatures constant-important when dealing with wines that cost $500 a bottle. The Sub-Zero wine system comes with two separate compartments with two separate thermostats to keep reds and whites at the perfect temperatures.

Ron Cook of Cook's Custom Cabinetry says that while he sees 2002 continuing the design focus on stainless steel appliances and black granite counter tops for kitchens, they'll be jazzed up with color this spring. "When you did a traditional kitchen, you ended up with light tan and brown cabinets and heirloom pieces, but now people are looking for color, taking beautiful maple and cherry wood cabinets and using yellows, blues and greens in what some refer to as 'glazing.'" People are also using two-tone trim packages for kitchens, doing the big center island in blue or green and then using stained wood or painted cabinetry for the outer perimeters for a nice look.

Also big: painted cabinetry with antique finish over in yellow, brown and putty gray tones. Those shades, by the way, will be the focus of this spring's 2002 KBIS show in Chicago for the National Kitchen and Bath Association. Homeowners are also using slate for backsplashes in unique designs, pewter hardware throughout the kitchen to complement stainless steel appliances, wine storage units and under-counter refrigerator drawers from Sub-Zero in the island, and cabinetry that doesn't just form a lineup. "Anybody can do cabinetry in one straight line," says Cook, "but when you pop them up in the middle, give some extra depth, place columns in between them, you end up with classical English and French cabinetry designs. You need projections in height and depth to give a unique look."

Home Advantage

Your home is every bit as much an investment as are your stocks and bonds, but there the similarity ends, says F. Donald Herman, owner/broker of ERA Mount Vernon Realty. "The difference," says Herman, "is that your home purchase provides shelter, comfort, protection for your family, pride of ownership and a safe investment." There are many factors to consider in real estate investment: your lifestyle (happiness is the prime investment), location, that surrounding properties should complement yours, subdivision discipline (rules and regulations), schools, shopping and convenience to daily habits. After comparing stock and bond purchases with your home investment, 'There's no place like home!'"


Floors By Design president David Gruber says he's proud to announce the completion of two projects. The first is at the Ritz-Carlton hotel/condominium complex and the second is The Lakewood Ranch Country Club. In The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton above the hotel, "work included areas such as the condominium lobby, all kitchens, bars and exterior terraces, as well all the carpeting and hardwood flooring in the 50 luxury condominiums above the hotel," says Gruber. Floors By Design also did the stunning work in the hotel's bar, terraces, some of the lobbies and restrooms. Terry Davis, senior superintendent at Hardin Construction, which is the builder at the Ritz-Carlton, says Floors By Design's work is "an example of a first-class contractor's contribution to making the Ritz-Carlton a success."

The Lakewood Ranch Country Club project included "finishes from the main lobby using custom medallions and borders to the grand staircase lavishly set in slaps of travertine, as well as the kitchens and the men's and women's health club area," says Gruber. The Floors By Design client list also includes G. WIZ science museum, Water Club II Condominium, Arvida's Grand Bay and Taylor Woodrow's Meridian Condominium.

Tax time again, and Penny Hill of Chase Manhattan Mortgage has these tips to offer: "You can deduct points in the year paid if you meet these terms: 1. Your settlement statement clearly identifies the amount of points. 2. The points are computed as a percentage of the mortgage loan principal. 3. The amount paid as points doesn't exceed the normal rate charges in your area. 4. The points are paid on a loan to purchase or to build your primary residence. 5. The points are paid from your own savings. Incidentally, your down payment counts as a payment of points as long as it equals or exceeds the amount of points." Deductibility of points is also allowable for a home improvement loan, refinance and home equity line of credit on primary residences with some stipulations, says Hill. Also, in a somewhat startling tip, Hill says, "Since 1990 the IRS has allowed the buyer to deduct points even if they were paid by the seller," and suggests you consult with your tax advisor for further clarification. Also suggested by Hill are and as good sources of information on line.

Michael Bush, chief operating officer of Epicurean Life, the fine wine and culinary group of Sarasota, says they have signed an agreement with the Serendipity Racquet Club at the Country Club of Sarasota to operate all culinary service and catering activities at the club. "We are honored to join forces with this club's dynamic management team, whose mission and vision are to create the best tennis and fitness club in Southwest Florida," says Bush. "In addition to bringing our culinary skills to the club members, Morton's Catering will have use of a world-class venue to host business and social events. We feel this is a great win-win scenario." Epicurean Life will operate the cafe and grillroom, along with the remodeled 11,000-square-foot banquet facility. "The banquet facility will be one of the premier venues in Southwest Florida," says Bush, "and a new restaurant on the property is currently under consideration."

A subsidiary of Stone Enterprises, owned by Gerd Petrik, recently purchased the Country Club. The Club has undergone and continues to go through extensive renovation, including new tennis courts, repair of the swimming pool, a new fitness and locker room facility, new pro shop and administrative offices, and a renovated banquet facility.

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