By staff April 1, 2007

ART ON THE SHORES SevenShores, a luxury condominium community being built on Manatee County’s Perico Island, has joined forces with ArtCenter Manatee to showcase the works of promising local artists in a new venue. Dubbed "Artful Waters" and located at the SevenShores site on West Manatee Avenue, the satellite gallery began exhibits in February and will continue featuring individual artists in eight-week exhibits through the end of the year. Admission is free.

ArtCenter Manatee executive director Diane Shelly credits SevenShores with the idea for the partnership, which is intended to give both seasonal and year-round residents of west Bradenton, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key easy access to an ArtCenter gallery. Named for the seven distinct shorelines surrounding it, SevenShores will include 686 condominiums and a clubhouse, all bordered by conservation areas.

WICKER CLICKS The developers of Orchid Beach Club, Beau Ciel and The Founders Club are preparing to start construction on their latest masterpiece, Wicker Beach, a Longboat Key enclave of six residences alongside the Gulf of Mexico. Created by U.S. Assets Group and located on the site of the old Wicker Inn, the private community will retain the inn’s charm by combining West Indies and traditional Florida beach architectural styles. Three first-level villas and three upper-level penthouses—each with more than 4,300 square feet of total living area, including three bedrooms and three and a half baths—have been designed with large terraces overlooking the beach. Penthouses have private spa terraces, while each villa boasts its own private pool and spa. Prices start in the high $3 millions; completion is expected in the summer of 2008.

CITRUS ON ORANGE Those interested in the downtown Sarasota lifestyle can now look forward to a new model for in-town living. Citrus Square, a combined residential and retail community on Orange Avenue between Fourth Street and Boulevard of the Arts, will feature two levels of condominiums above ground-floor boutiques and cafes. With pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined streets centered on its namesake—a quaint, open square—Citrus Square boasts meticulous architectural details right down to its distinctive neighborhood lampposts, creating an intimate lifestyle just steps from downtown Sarasota’s cultural and culinary destinations. The one- and two-bedroom residences are priced from the mid-$200s to the $500s.

SPEC-TACULAR After almost a year and a half of construction, the long-awaited Estancia del Mar spec home is now complete at 5060 Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key. Listed by Michael Moulton and Annette Rogers of Michael Saunders & Company, the Mizner-inspired gated estate, occupying more than an acre and overlooking one of the widest points on Sarasota Bay, is offered at $11.75 million—a clear sign, say the agents, that the Sarasota area is moving into the big leagues of luxury homes.

Estancia del Mar’s 13,565 square feet of indoor-outdoor living space includes an infinity-edge bayfront pool and large, al fresco covered entertainment area with summer kitchen, bar and fireplace. Inside, all that space houses a theater, library, wine room and billiards room, among many luxury features. The home’s authentic architecture is polished off with the highest quality finishes, and the property also has beach access and a private dock.

Owner Corvus International is also responsible for developing the successful Positano condominiums on Longboat Key, as well as the high-rise Bel Mare at Riviera Dunes, currently under construction in Palmetto.

PALACE POLISH Downtown Bradenton’s historic Riverpark Hotel, known to natives as the Pink Palace, is getting a new lease on life from a recently commenced mixed-use development project. Now selling through SKY Sotheby’s International Realty, Riverpark Grande will restore the landmark building to its original splendor, including wrought-iron railings and hand-painted ceiling beams, while creating 40 state-of-the-art residential units and retail spaces in the heart of Bradenton’s invigorated downtown district.

With completion expected in the spring of 2008, Riverpark Grande’s residences, including five penthouses, will combine 21st-century amenities and appliances with elegant features like cherry wood cabinets, crown molding and private balconies. The one-, two- and three-bedroom units will range from 900 to just under 3,000 square feet and start in the mid-$300s.

BUY AND SELL Real estate agent Robin DiSabatino has good news for home sellers: The National Association of Realtors is now reporting a discernible improvement in home sales and prices nationally. While that kind of optimism isn’t so widespread in the local market, DiSabatino expects overall improvements to hit the Sarasota-Bradenton area in the second or third quarter of this year. Still, she adds, with over 24 months of inventory in most neighborhoods, sellers are being forced to get back to basics.

"The key to getting a home sold is often the price," says DiSabatino. Homes on the market with few showings (or none whatsoever) need at least a 10 percent price reduction to attract attention. "If your home has had several showings but no offers," she adds, "a 5 percent to 10 percent price adjustment will usually result in a successful sale."

Now is not the time for sellers to mess around, she argues; professional, full-service realtors are the best way to have success in the current market. "With interest rates remaining near their historic lows, the combined strategies of improving the condition of the home, pricing adjustments of the home to reflect the local market and expert marketing will convert the current housing shoppers to homebuyers."

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