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After meeting at the University of Miami School of Architecture, Debbie Ahmari concentrated on urban planning while Roberto Gonzalez worked for two famed firms: Arquitectonica in Miami, and the Chicago firm of Perkins + Will, where he helped design the Dubai airport. The couple, who are married, moved to Sarasota three years ago. Gonzalez, originally from Puerto Rico, says, “In Miami, I had a good job and business is done in both English and Spanish. I came kicking and screaming. [But] I was surprised—Sarasota is so culturally rich. It has all the amenities of a large city with a small-scale feel.”

House Proud

Roberto: “Last year, we designed and built a home on Mietaw Drive that [sold] to a couple from Pennsylvania who will use it as a vacation home.” Debbie: “We tried to honor some New Urbanism principles: the front porch, putting the garage in the back with the guesthouse over it.” Roberto: “We’re now turning a porch into a screened lanai for a local couple with four cats. We donated the design and construction to the Cat Depot gala.”

City With a Heart

Debbie: “Especially coming from Miami, I’m impressed with how kind and real people are here, even though they’re very sophisticated and accomplished. Sarasota is a warm-hearted city.”

Art and Soul

Debbie: “I started taking classes at SCTI and now I paint watercolors,  mostly images of flowers with female silhouettes in them. I worked at Fairchild Tropical Garden [in Coral Gables]; I started as a volunteer after my mom passed—I wanted something to feed my soul.”

What Sarasota Needs

Debbie: “We all have to be vigilant about managing traffic and roads and bringing in alternate forms of transportation.”

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