Commercial Designs of Distinction

By Ilene Denton September 30, 2009

All’s not entirely quiet on the regional commercial building front, as these handsome new projects demonstrate. Winning accolades in our 2009 Commercial Designs of Distinction: a nonprofit health clinic/headquarters that’s anything but antiseptic in design, a 1950s-made-new-again public beach pavilion, a mixed-use condominium-retail development that got all the details right, a bright pair of Ringling College buildings, and a contractor’s own corporate headquarters so green that it brought home a big gold award. (All projects were completed after Jan. 1, 2008.)


PROJECT ARCHITECT: The ADP Group; Javi Suarez Jr., design architect; Robert Town III, principal in charge

CONTRACTOR: NDC Construction

The light-filled regional headquarters for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida in downtown Sarasota’s Rosemary District is a study in welcome contradictions: modern yet anything but cold, inviting yet at the same time exuding a sense of security. A series of peaceful blue and green rectangles, it houses Planned Parenthood’s health clinic, as well as offices for some 25 administrative staffers who support all six of the healthcare provider’s clinics throughout the Tampa Bay area, a small theater for its award-winning Source Teen Theater, and a glass-fronted first-floor gallery space for Ringling College of Art and Design alums. Three large skylights cut through all three floors, flooding the building with natural light right down to the ground, establishing the open feeling, and—importantly—reducing the need for artificial light. The building is expected to be certified LEED Silver in the near future for that, plus other environmentally friendly design elements. “It’s a progressive institution, and they wanted first and foremost a progressive building that would serve their clientele,” says architect Javi Suarez Jr., who designed the project for the ADP Group and is now with Apex-Studio Suarez.


PROJECT ARCHITECT: Lawson Group Architects; Don Lawson, architect

CONTRACTOR: Willis A. Smith Construction

The innovative new headquarters for Willis A. Smith Construction in Lakewood Ranch set the gold standard for eco-conscious building—literally, according to the U.S. Green Building Council, which awarded the 18,000-square-foot stucco and stone building its LEED Gold certification for sustainability earlier this summer. It’s in heady company, joining just two other LEED Gold buildings in Sarasota County (the Twin Lakes office complex and north Sarasota public library) and just 31 others in all of Florida. Among its green features: solar roof panels, a “cool roof” system, low- or no-VOC paints and carpets, water-efficient landscaping, recycling of more than two-thirds of the construction waste, and a rainwater harvesting system that collects water from the roof and transfers it to underground 3,000-gallon concrete cisterns. Aesthetics were not sacrificed to all that earnest environmentalism; the building’s both smart and good-looking.



CONTRACTOR: Howell Construction Group; Jack Clark, project manager

After suffering through decades of disrepair that led to a five-year shutdown, the circa-1955 Nokomis Beach Pavilion reopened last September to much critical acclaim and an outstanding achievement award from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. Its original architect, Jack West, a disciple of the Sarasota School of Architecture, came out of retirement to lead the redesign. Many of the ingeniously simple elements that made the Sarasota School of Architecture so right for its time and place—spare lines, flat roofs and lots of glass and clean Ocala block—prove once again that the style is timeless. Newfangled elements that were added include recessed lights with red filters that won’t disturb sea turtles during nesting season. The new pavilion has a reconfigured indoor community room and a 10,000-square-foot concrete outdoor deck just steps from the Gulf’s edge. “It’s not often you get to work on a historical restoration with the same designer who built the original,” says contractor Frank Howell, who’s also responsible for the restoration of the Venice train depot and the waterworks building in downtown Sarasota.


PROJECT ARCHITECT: Jonathan Parks Architect; Jonathan Parks, architect; Chris Gallagher, designer/project manager; Timothy Del Vescovo A.S.I.D., design team

CONTRACTOR: Pierce Contracting

Architecture critics, both the pros and man-on-the-street types, are universal in their praise for this handsome, European-style mixed-use building on North Orange Avenue, a block north of Fruitville Road. Developers Mark Pierce and George Birkhold took a commendable risk by stretching the downtown boundary northward. The architects created a single building with several different facades, and evoked old world style without the gimmicks, instead using authentic elements such as carved wooden entry doors, copper gutters and 12 different styles of wrought iron. Citrus Square’s 20 over-the-shop condominiums have generous 10-foot ceilings and quality finishes such as hardwood floors and casement windows. Retail tenants, among them a hair salon, a Pilates studio and a chocolatier, started moving in over the summer.


PROJECT ARCHITECT: Lawson Group Architects; Don Lawson, architect

CONTRACTOR: Willis A. Smith Construction

One of Sarasota’s biggest success stories, the Ringling College of Art and Design, experienced its largest-ever enrollment this fall—more than 1,300 of the top art, design and animation students in the country. As it continues to grow and garner national accolades, two big, modern buildings joined its north Sarasota County campus and expanded the physical plant by one-third. The geometric, five-story, 73,800-square-foot student housing building contains meeting rooms, staff offices, recreation and lounge areas, a kitchen and 110 semi-private dorm rooms. The five-story, 92,600-square-foot academic building, with its jutting glass walls, has an auditorium, media center, gallery, exhibition space and classrooms, studio space and faculty offices. The buildings are forward-thinking, too; with rainwater cisterns, photovoltaic solar panels, cool roof systems and other green elements, both meet all requirements for LEED certification. ■

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