Destination Nokomis

By Hannah Wallace November 30, 2005

When it comes to the revitalization of Nokomis, Dan Dragash is something of a poster child. Owner of Nokomis Inn & Suites on U.S. 41 at Albee Road, Dragash recently rehabbed the property, giving it an Old Florida look. Now he plans to expand the motel and build a two-story structure next door with 3,900 square feet of commercial space for a coffee shop or beach-supply store.

Dragash isn't the only one working to spruce up this stretch of U.S. 41, with its vacant lots and small mom-and-pops. Work began this fall on a two-year project to widen U.S. 41 to six lanes from S.R. 681 south to the Venice city limits, and the county installed water and sewer lines and has plans to add sidewalks and landscaping.

"There's no question that Nokomis is going to be dramatically different within the next two years," says Barry Seidel, president of the American Property Group of Sarasota, Inc. "You'll see renovations of properties all along 41."

John Ask, president of the Nokomis Area Civic Association, wants to see mixed-use development along U.S. 41, with multistory buildings that offer office or residential space on the upper floors and commercial space on the ground floor suitable for businesses like boutiques, ice cream parlors, and beach-gear suppliers.

Available commercial space includes the circa-1923 Nokomis Bank Building at 801 S. Tamiami Trail. Freshly painted on the exterior, the 5,000-square-foot structure can be leased for $3,600 a month. It's also available for purchase, with an asking price of $1,495,000 (that includes a two-bedroom house located at the rear of the property). "I get 10 to 15 calls a day on that building," says Peter Mitchell, property manager for ONESource Real Estate Services Center in Venice. "It's got a lot of sentimental value with a lot of people." According to Mitchell, the site could be used for anything from a restaurant to an art gallery to a dental office.

American Property Group of Sarasota Inc.'s commercial property listings in Nokomis include a 2,500-square-foot retail space at 923 S. Tamiami Trail going for $3,500 a month and office space in the Venice-Nokomis Professional Building renting for between $14 and $16 per square foot.

High-priced residential developments are also appearing on the scene, such as Harbor Villas at Dona Bay, an 18-unit condominium development being built by Trendy and Trendy. Though construction hasn't begun on the project, 14 units have been sold for $934,000 to $1,298,000 each. About 2,500 square feet of first-floor retail space and another 2,500 square feet of office space on the second floor will be available at the site as well. Those spaces, both of which can be subdivided, are for sale for $650,000 each. Boat slips will also be sold at the Harbor Villas. The slips will be between 26 feet and 40 feet and will sell for $91,000 to $147,000. The restaurant and marina store currently on the site were slated for demolition beginning this fall.

That will add to what Seidel already considers an appealing residential base for businesses. "A lot of people forget that Nokomis is a gateway to Casey Key, and that's the gateway to money," he says.

But as businesses discover these opportunities, expect prices to rise. "A couple of years ago, you'd pay $8 to $10 a square foot for dirt in Nokomis," says Ask. "Now land is going for around $18 a square foot. It's catching up with Osprey and Sarasota."

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