Sarasota Real Estate: Palmetto Condos

By Robert Plunket May 25, 2012

The place to look for luxury condo bargains these days is . . . Palmetto? Yes, thanks to the lingering recession and various bankruptcies, there are several complexes on the Manatee River up to the North that are amenity-rich and elegant, most with water views and priced as low as $199,000. Let’s take a quick look at a couple.

First check out Bel Mare, at Riviera Dunes. These are two large high rises rather incongruously set down at the end of the bridge to Bradenton. The units are very impressive, with high ceilings, great layouts—really state-of-the-art when it comes to contemporary luxury buildings. They are large (they start around 1,800 square feet) and the finishes are high end. The bigger units can be vast, the sort of apartments that ramble on and on, and have more bathrooms than bedrooms. Unit 1204 at 130 Riviera Dunes Way is available for $495,000; it certainly feels like twice the price.

Unit 1204, Bel Mare at Riviera Dunes

Bel Mare’s big competition is called the Palms at Riviera Dunes, at 501 Haben Blvd. It’s located a little further from the water but the views are still good. While it doesn’t quite match Bel Mare in style and opulence, it’s still very nice and priced even better. The average unit is around 1,600 square feet—it’s got two bedrooms and a den—and starts around $200,000, but the ones I like the best are the end units. Unit 601 is currently on the market, and compares favorably with the aforementioned apartment at Bel Mare but it’s $150,000 less. It’s got water views from all the rooms, and even a second screened lanai/balcony. You’re going to have to make do with two bathrooms though. For more info call Mary Ann Barr at 941-713-5848.

The big issue here, of course, is Palmetto. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s about a half hour north of Sarasota and is an old Southern town, still agriculture oriented. The elegant high rises we’re talking about overlook the Manatee River, but turn your gaze a little and the view is the trailer park and the gun show at the Manatee Civic Center. The sophistication of Sarasota’s arts scene and the beaches of Anna Maria are close by, but there is an undeniable disconnect between these luxury buildings and their immediate surroundings. Fine dining is a trek and shopping—other than the outlet mall—can be a problem. But the prices and apartments are great.

By the way—we haven’t even gotten into Palmetto’s other big development, Terra Ceia Bay, with high rises and villas set on a vast track of land to the north of town. The views to the bay can be quite spectacular, and the prices start under $100,000. This is a golf, retirement and second home place, that seems aimed at the classic Florida market—older Midwesterners who want a good deal.

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