This modern home pictured on the left on East Avenue in Park East sold for $575,000 last month and hints at the diamond-in-the-rough nature of the downtown Sarasota neighborhood where the median listing price for a home there is just less than $170,000.

This modern home pictured on the left on East Avenue in Park East sold for $575,000 last month and hints at the diamond-in-the-rough nature of the downtown Sarasota neighborhood, where the median listing price for a home there is just under $170,000.

Image: Kim Doleatto

With real estate prices on the rise, “West of Washington Boulevard” is becoming the new “West of Trail.” Just west of Washington Boulevard, Gillespie Park and Rosemary District home prices are ballooning. Park East, just east of Washington Boulevard, may be the city’s last close-to-downtown affordable frontier for many who live and work in Sarasota.

West of Washington Boulevard (aka U.S. 301) in downtown Sarasota took off last decade as a real estate hot spot with gentrifying neighborhoods like Gillespie Park and the Rosemary District. Now Park East, an established working-class neighborhood east of U.S. 301, has some real estate watchers wondering if it might be the next coveted downtown place to live.

“It's the next up-and-coming neighborhood,” says Brandi Furlan of Keller Williams Classic Group.

Furlan recently sold a two-level, three-bedroom, two-bathroom, almost 2,000-square-foot home in Park East for $575,000. Brand-new, the house has trendy elements like polished concrete floors, quartz kitchen countertops, a large walk-in shower and a private balcony.

“When I first saw the sellers wanted to list it for $600,000, I just about fell out of my chair," she says. "But we sold for nearly that in 122 days."

Fetching that price point is unusual in Park East, a neighborhood where buyers can still land a two-bedroom home, albeit in need of some updates, for less than $200,000. The median listing price for a home there is just less than $170,000, and on average sells after 62 days on the market, according to March real estate data.

Only a two-minute drive from Gillespie Park, Park East is a neighborhood of single-family homes and duplexes and is made up of a mix of investor-owned rentals and home-owners. It’s just north of Fruitville Road, south of 12th Street, west of Lime Avenue and east of Washington Boulevard. Many homes could use a coat of fresh paint, and it's not unusual to see chairs and cars crowd the front yards, turning lawns into sandy driveways punctuated with cookout areas. An industrial district between the railroad tracks and Lime Avenue borders the residential section. The neighborhood also has Shenandoah Park and a humble church on Eighth Street.

“It's homeowners and everyday working people. You see families and people walking dogs every day,” Furlan says.

Gillespie Park and the Rosemary District were once similar in pricing, but now homes in those neighborhoods are regularly listed upwards of $500,000. Last month, a two-bedroom, one-bath tear-down located at 1698 Sixth St. sold for more than $250,000; a three-bedroom, two-bath home at 1775 Seventh St. sold for $750,000; and a single empty lot on Fourth Street, in Gillespie Park, was recently listed for more than $600,000.

So how did the home that fetched $575,000 make its way onto the Park East grid? The area’s mature oaks and convenient location caught the attention of the Pelican Group developers, who started building there in 2019.

Pelican Group partners Jason Picciano and Jeff Livingston have now built three modern, two-story homes, including the one that Furlan sold, among the wood-frame bungalows. The group bought a wood-frame tear-down home in Park East in 2019, and built two, three-bedroom, two-bathroom homes on the site, at 2111 and 2015 Fourth Street. Each home is 1,865 square feet and was sold to an investment group for $425,000 that same year, when Sarasota housing prices were a little tamer.

Picciano and Livingston knew there were buyers who would value location over neighborhood esthetics. “It has attracted young professionals and mostly couples without children, and people moving from a big city where they don't even have a yard. For them, this life feels a little more similar,” Picciano says.

For 20 years, lawyer Steven Wittmer has owned his practice at 2014 Fourth St. in Park East near Washington Boulevard, and he plans to build on a 10,000-square-foot vacant lot next door. Although he hasn’t yet applied for permits, he and Picciano have plans to develop almost 40 residential units there. Thanks to what’s known as “downtown edge zoning,” the lot allows for single-family or multi-family homes and mixed-use structures that provide live-work opportunities.

Wittmer says he intends to kick off the first phase with eight living units and keep them in an affordable price range–from $1.5 to $1.75 per square foot to rent, and from $250 to $290 per square foot to sell.

In the current seller’s market, both Picciano and Furlan think eventually more Park East homes will come on the market, and the neighborhood will follow the same path as Gillespie Park and the Rosemary District. But many Park East homeowners are staying put. “We have very low housing inventory. Plus, if you are living there, where can you move to? Even Bradenton is becoming unaffordable,” says Furlan.