“Honest” is an apt description for someone who has been renovating and restoring historical buildings for more than 40 years and reflects Ball’s commitment to preserving a building’s integrity. His most notable restoration projects include John Ringling’s Ca d’Zan mansion, the Guptill House at Historic Spanish Point in Osprey and the Revere Quality Institute House in Siesta Key. His own office, Ball Construction, is housed in the historic Payne Chapel AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Assembly Church building in the Rosemary District. His most recent project was renovating the third floor of the building into a loft-style condo for him and his wife Judy. Located on the corner of Central Avenue and Fifth Street, the building is one of the most remarkable rehabilitation projects in downtown Sarasota. The original one-room building on the site was home to the first AME church in Sarasota, but was replaced in 1914 with a bigger frame building, complete with a church bell. A hurricane destroyed the building in 1926, but plans were immediately drawn up to replace the church on the same site.The building served the community for more than 50 years. By the late 1960s, however, the congregation had declined and the building was deteriorating. A new Payne Chapel was built on 19th Street and Central Avenue, and the original building was abandoned in 1975. By the late 1980s, Payne Chapel was merely a shell, with only its outer walls still up and a few beams of the roof in place. Ball was given the building in 1987 and finished reconstructing the building by the early nineties. “It took us a long time to rebuild it because it was a tough project in a rough neighborhood,” Ball explains. “The neighborhood didn't rebound as fast as anybody thought it would and it’s just now starting to really come into its own.” The Rosemary District is now a neighborhood rising with development, architects, contractors and small businesses being drawn to the area, which Ball attributes to its close proximity to downtown and its inventory of historic buildings. Ball himself was attracted to the possibility of being close to downtown and decided to renovate the unfinished space on the third floor of the building with the help of architect Greg Hall. He and his wife sold their American Foursquare on Alameda Avenue and moved into the light-filled open-concept loft above Ball’s office. “The whole aesthetic of this building is the building itself,” he says. “We wanted to do no harm to it.” Ball left the original masonry intact and left some of the structural elements exposed. The juxtaposition of old and new blends harmoniously throughout the space. A white crisp ceiling, concrete floors and a modern, clean-lined kitchen coincide with the rough aesthetic of the walls. The space is only two-thirds complete but Ball has plans for a master bathroom, a guest room and a balcony. “We wanted a cool loft and a functional space for us,” he says. “I think those things were accomplished. Judy and I like having a work in progress and it fits our lifestyle now. It's a good example of Baby Boomers—who I'm one of the very earliest of—who are moving downtown and enjoying a different lifestyle than one in the suburbs.” SRQ

Photography by Gene Pollux