Sarasota’s role in the modern architecture movement holds renown among lovers of art, built environment and history. Now a new hotel in the Rosemary District will celebrate the history through its theme and very existence. The Sarasota Modern, opening its doors this past December, honors the vision of Paul Rudolph at an in-house restaurant and the entire movement’s utilitarian principles in every cubic inch of construction. 

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THE ENTIRE VISION FOR THE NEW PROJECT draws from the same mindset that helped regional architects redefine the philosophy architecture, while also bringing the concepts on mid-century modern design to a 21st century clientele, says Director of Sales and Marketing Paul Romero. He discusses the way sunshade and ventilation helped the Victor Lundys and Ralph Twitchells make a Southwest Florida community more livable in the 1950s and ‘60s. Floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding paneling at the Modern recall the same principles, just as slotted shade structures and concrete cutouts in the exterior rely on natural lighting to create an atmosphere somehow both lavish in its bold atmosphere and economic in amplifying the power of simplicity. 

From the time one steps into the lobby, filled with natural sunlight and decorated by geometrically sharp overhangs and ornaments, the sleek and clean feel of mod permeates the atmosphere, creating a distinct mystique. Every detail has been executed with intention, just as Rudolph called for from the professor’s lectern at Yale. It helps create an environment that not only embraces the style of the mid-century movement but its spirit as well.

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“It’s not just about how it looks,” Romero says, “but how it feels.” Architect Jason Cincotta and The Cincotta Co. drew heavily from the region’s history for inspiration visiting famous houses and poring through books on the movement that turned Bauhaus into a suitable coastal art form.

“The idea of Modernism more generally, outside the specific architectural movement, fascinated the team,” says Brittany Chapman, publicist for The Sarasota Modern. Construction paid homage to the modern movement, but, more importantly, Cincotta’s team absorbed the modern ethic, and the capacity for technology to improve architecture while embracing the region’s existing culture-informed decisions. Along the way, the history of the movement became adopted as an identity for the hotel itself. And when the new hospitality project needed a name, Romero says, owners wanted to celebrate the community in the hotel’s name, but Cincotta also insisted architecture be part of the brand as well. Thus, The Sarasota Modern as a brand and a string of corporate DNA came to be.

The 89-room hotel, part of the Starwood-Marriott Tribute Portfolio Collection, hopes locals will book a stay, if not overnight then for an hour at The Rudolph—an in-house restaurant named in tribute to architect Paul Rudolph. Romero wants Sarasota’s discriminating foodie community visiting The Rudolph for fine dining, and to make sure no one was disappointed, brought in General Manager John Markunas, a veteran of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and most recently the man in charge of dining at the Hotel Zamora in St. Pete Beach, to run the restaurant and hotel side. And while some hotels (not naming names) reduce dining to a guest option, if locals don’t want to walk through the Sarasota Modern lobby just for the chance to eat at Rudolph’s, then something must have gone wrong. “I’ve encountered many restaurants where it was an afterthought and amenity for the guest,” Romero says. “For us, this could be a standalone restaurant in Sarasota.”

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Chapman says the hotel also can serve as a venue to any number of business and community events, from weddings to awards receptions. Romero plans to hire an event planner dedicated to forging community partnerships and making residents of Sarasota consider the new space as a fresh part of the community fabric. The hotel could house pop-up restaurants or lease space to boutiques.Aside from dining, the hotel plans to dazzle with an incredible and inviting pool and patio combo that results in a mixed-use environment allowing guests to swim while events take place waterside without disruption. Anyone walking into the lobby will have a view of the dunk pool and hot tub setting, and further exploration will reveal the lush green landscape around the water amenities.

As for the rooms, a majority of the 89 spaces will boast a view of the hotel terrace or of Sarasota Bay. “The goal is to create multiple micro-paradises in the hotel,” Romero says. Cubist paintings hang from the walls and slick, flat-edged furniture make each unit feel like something from Star Trek but with better creature comforts. 

The boutique hotel features 12 different kinds of apartment-style suites. Those range from the Rosemary, a mega-suite with king-sized beds, family suites with bunk beds and floor area to run, or party suites with multiple lofted beds, perfect for bachelor parties or other large gatherings. The range of layouts allows the hotel to serve a wide variety of guest needs, but also means return visitors can have a different room environment every time they stay.

One feature new to this market, guests will be able to enjoy their view from a luxury clawfoot balcony tub in select suites. The ability to relax from a private tub—perfect for honeymooners—shows the focus on comfort and special experiences. But while the rooms at the Modern will provide coziness and adventure in equal measure, Romero doesn’t expect people visiting Paradise to stay trapped within the walls of their room, and part of being in Mariott’s Tribute Portfolio means working to connect guests to the surrounding locale during their trip. The collection tends to build hotels in mid-sized destinations known for tourism, rather than trying to wedge into the world’s big metropoles, and other properties around the world include the Avenue of The Arts Costa Mesa, which celebrates art and theater in Southern Calfiornia, and the Kiroro, which features ski slopes, sushi and Segway tours in Northern Japan. 

If the architecture (or the in-lobby shoeshine service) doesn’t make guests feel like they’ve traveled back in time by about 50 years when they arrive at The Sarasota Modern, the fully restored VW bus by the front curb might do it. The classic party vehicle, released by Volkswagen in 1949, nine years after the dawn of the Sarasota School of Architecture, serves as the company shuttle to take guests anywhere in a three- to five-mile radius of the Rosemary District hotel. That means family trips to Lido Key in the most iconic beachcomber wheels ever, or an incursion downtown in a conveyance sure to catch attention. The reach of the bus can get guests to The Ringling, St. Armands Circle or the Amish neighborhoods on Bahia Vista. 

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For Chapman, the social media opportunities alone make the bus a must. She imagines Instagram posts and Facebook pics leaving people around the country scratching their heads at how their friends managed to book a beach vacation to the year 1969. As far as hospitality goes, Romero sees this as a way to add fun and warmth. The Sarasota Modern promises a luxury experience, but not a stuffy one. The corporate strategy for the new hotel definitely focuses on the leisure traveler. Romero anticipates booking 80 percent leisure travelers and 20 percent business or events, putting the property more in line with a hotel by the beach than one at the airport. Activities like morning yoga classes and a full spa will keep guests relaxed at the stay. But he also knows the greatest activities may be in the environment around the hotel. The Rosemary District has become a booming and active neighborhood over the two years that The Sarasota Modern has been in the works.

“We primarily want guests to feel the whole experience of visiting Sarasota and the Rosemary District,” he says. Over a two- or three-day stay, Romero wants visitors to be able to experience the culture and majesty of the community, and that means making it easy to get around in style. And as much as management wants those living in the region to come dine at the Rudolph and enjoy the hotel venue, they also hope the guests coming from the outside will visit the cafes, the galleries, the Bay and the many assets of the Sarasota area when they stay. Romero stresses that The Sarasota Modern more than any other resort on the region relies on the community’s branding for its success. 

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“We are literally the only hotel with Sarasota in its name,” Romero says. Sure, plenty of places tag it on as a geographic marker—i.e. The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota or Embassy Suites, Sarasota—but this project puts the city’s name ahead of it all. That’s partly because of a belief that this boutique only succeeds if the people living in the region feel ownership of the space. “We won’t be successful unless we are in Sarasota,” Romero says.