Those mid-century modern elements of the ranch home, built in 1958, as well as the home’s location in Greenbriar—a small neighborhood of older homes east of Tuttle Avenue close to downtown Sarasota—were the reasons he was drawn to the home at 2944 Novus St. “This is my Atomic Ranch [project],” Ongstad told me during my recent visit to the home, in the midst of a complete renovation. Ongstad was referring to the mid-century modern style and the magazine, Atomic Ranch, which focuses specifically on modest houses of this vintage.

“I love these homes,” Ongstad says of the neighborhood, as we stood outside the home and he pointed out the tongue-and-groove planked ceiling above the carport. Cobwebs aside, the entire roof really was a thing of beauty. 

Photo 1

With his co-investors, Ongstad purchased the home at 2944 Novus St. in October, 2016, and, early this summer, general contractor Stern Construction began a complete renovation of the home. “The home was in serious disrepair,” Ongstad says. “It had to be gutted.” More transformed homes could be coming soon to Greenbriar, as interest grows in the clean architecture and convenient location of the neighborhood. Ongstad hopes to renovate another home here. And other realtors say they see some early market parallels between Greenbriar and neighborhoods west of the Trail and east of the Trail (such as Arlington Park) before those hot spots were hot. Yet, for now it has potential to become a good destination for buyers priced out of the city’s more expensive areas.

“What is desirable about Greenbriar is the price point, in the 200s and 300s” for an updated home, says Realtor Martie Lieberman, with Sotheby’s International Realty. “That’s a price point young families and empty nesters can afford. The location, next to Temple Beth Sholom Academy, walking distance from the YMCA and along the proposed route of the Legacy Trail extension, is a strong asset.”

The neighborhood’s coolest feature, however—the one that Ongstad fell in love with—is the architecture.

Although the home at 2944 Novus St. was completely redone—from new flooring to new water pipes and rewiring, to a brand new, open kitchen—Ongstad strove to retain the mid-century feel of the home. For example, contractors installed flat-door kitchen cabinetry that matched the original cabinets and vintage-style ceiling fans throughout the home. Plenty of white paint inside and out draw attention to the home’s design.

 Photo 2


By the end of August, the renovation was nearing completion, and Ongstad was readying to put the home on the market for sale. Ongstad says the ideal buyer could be a small family or couple looking for the geometry of a modern home yet can’t afford a true “Sarasota School of Architecture” mid-century abode designed by a renowned architect, or a new, modern home that’s listed at upwards of $600,000. “This is a modern home, but not with the price tag of a new, modern home,” Ongstad says.

Clean Lines

A pair of women hailing from Manhattan moved to Sarasota and developed the homes in Greenbriar, many of which were built in the late 1950s, says Ongstad, who researched the origins of the neighborhood. 

At the time, the then-new homes were offered in five different layouts, with all of them sharing angular lines, and the model Ongstad is remodeling offering probably the most “modern” design of the group. Sale prices ranging from $11,500, for the “Retirement Dream” layout, to $14,000, for a four bedroom, two-bath layout called the “Fabulous Four,” according to an advertisement from 1959. 

Photo 3

The homes are not specifically Sarasota School of Architecture specimens, says Lieberman, but they remain significant examples of the mid-century homes that were built in the 1950s across Sarasota. “This was tract housing,” says Lieberman, who is also the founder of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation. But in Greenbriar they “did build some swinging, swanky homes, with volume ceilings and clean lines, no clutter.” And the homes were built well, Lieberman adds, as many of the homes from this period, with terrazzo flooring and solid block construction. They put the floor in first, before the walls, in a more solid approach to construction, the realtor says. 

Photo 4

Back in February, 2016, Lieberman was the listing agent on a home on Novus Street that sold for $225,000. With vaulted ceilings, clerestory windows and restored terrazzo floors, the 1,346-square-foot charming home met the spirit of its mid-century original architecture. That sale came out to $167 a square foot. But prices have been on the rise since 2016, and Real Estate Broker Doris Edwards predicts that renovated homes, such as Ongstad’s project, will spur even more renovation and updating in the neighborhood—making it a desirable location for homebuyers who might choose a transformed home here over a newer home in a community out east. “This neighborhood reminds me of areas west of the Trail, with little ranch houses that people are starting to redo,” says Edwards, who has an updated home listed for sale in the neighborhood. “The alternative is for people to move way east,” the broker says.

The four-bedroom, two-bath Edwards has listed for $298,000, has the best of both worlds, she says. “It keeps that retro design, yet it has a new kitchen and new plumbing and flooring,” Edwards says. For now, she says, Greenbriar remains a bit of a best kept secret. But its great location will likely continue to capture the attention of both investors, such as Ongstad, and buyers.