Test of Time

By Robert Plunket February 24, 2010


Plymouth Harbor may the most recognizable building in Sarasota. At 25 stories, it certainly is the tallest. But it has also earned a place in the city’s history. It’s our most prestigious retirement residence, and always has been since it was built in 1966. Legends are attached to it – the crazy billionaire conservative ensconced in the penthouse, the glamorous Broadway star making secret visits to an old lover. There are newer places and some are more lavish. But Plymouth Harbor is the one with the mystique.


It’s also the one with the location. On the eastern edge of St Armand’s Key, five minutes from downtown, it’s pretty much right in the middle of all the most desirable parts of town. Its enormous tower shocked the town so much when it was built that the zoning laws were changed. Time – and all the new high-rises – have mellowed the controversy, and today the height of the building means it has the most spectacular views in Sarasota. Period.


The Plymouth Harbor campus is built in a grandiose version of 1960s minimalism – lots of long planes and empty space. There’s a sense of endless space and endless views. It’s elegant, but a spare and simple elegant, like the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York. Top decorator Anne Folsom Smith just redecorated most of the ground floor. (Her husband Frank Folsom Smith designed the building and has won many awards for it.) 


Combined with several low-rise garden buildings, Plymouth Harbor has over 200 units, ranging from 580-square-foot studios to penthouses of over 2,000 square feet. The units are a little small by today’s luxury standards, but that’s sort of the point. You want things close at hand, and cozy becomes more important than spacious. Imagine the agony of being 85 and living in a McMansion and having to spend five minutes just walking from the bedroom to the kitchen.


Plymouth Harbor is the type of retirement community where you pay a “membership fee” rather than purchase a condo. The fee starts at around $130,000 for a studio and goes to over a million for the big penthouses. This means you and/or your heirs do not get the money back. What you get instead is the security of knowing that you have a place to live and will be taken care of for the rest of your life. Exactly how and under what circumstances depends on your long term insurance, but Plymouth Harbor goes out of its way to stress the “caring community” aspects of retirement living.


A monthly fee is also charged, ranging from around $1,500 up to over $5,000. Just about everything is included: utilities, activities, weekly housekeeping, local phone, transportation, and 15 dinners per month.

I know many people who live in Plymouth Harbor and they all love it. I like the feeling of camaraderie when I vist--everyone is super-friendly and they're pursuing their hobbies and activities like mad. This week they're performing an original play they wrote themselves about a dog who may or may not be living on the 17th floor. Yes, they sadly do not allow pets. This is the one drawback. Change that rule, and Plymouth Harbor will move from an A rating to an A-plus.

For more information call Gordon Okawa, (941) 361-7514 or go to

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