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SRQ DAILY Jul 25, 2015

"I do expect some less spectacular growth than we have seen these last several months, but I do foresee continued momentum in a year exhibiting every sign of achieving new records, but doing so in a measured and sustainable fashion."

- Michael Moulton, Michael Saunders and Company

[The Detail]  The Bendersonville Initiative
Cathy Antunes, cathycantunes@gmail.com

The Fruitville Initiative began when Sarasota County approached five landowners about working together to plan high value, walkable development at the Fruitiville-Interstate-75 interchange. Rather than standard big box retail, gas stations, fast food or strip malls, the County wanted to coordinate development of the 42 acres of public land next to the Fruitville library with the 300 adjacent acres owned by private landowners. The private landowners agreed. Public workshop attracted hundreds of residents. The collaboration produced a beautiful, walkable residential and commercial mixed-use development plan that harmonizes with the Celery Fields bird sanctuary. The County paid a national expert $500,000 to put the plan on paper, and passed the Fruitville Initiative in 2010. Today, the County has reneged on the plan, selling the public’s 42 acres to Benderson Development for a bargain-basement price. Benderson plans to build a trucking distribution center on the formerly public land. The Browardization of Sarasota County (aka Bendersonville) continues.

The premise of the Fruitville Initiative was simple:  together, we can create development which delivers greater benefits for everyone—property owners, neighbors and residents of Sarasota County. The Fruitville-I-75 interchange could be something different. The private landowners agreed. Sarasota County’s numerous public workshops attracted hundreds who discussed, debated, collaborated.  

A vision of walkable, mixed-use development resulted. Sarasota County hired Stefano Polyzoides to put a plan on paper, paying him $500,000. Walkable development standards were embraced by the private landowners, who were not required to work with anyone. They could have sold to McDonald’s and called it a day. The same walkable development standards were embraced by the neighbors. Those living nearby understood the landowners’ development rights, and they saw value in walkable residential and commercial development, which would bring shopping, dining and employment closer to home. Sarasota County residents understood that mixed-use development would reduce traffic, because the new and existing residents would be able to shop and work without hopping on I-75. It was a win for everyone. 

Not anymore.

Sarasota County sold the public’s 42 acres to Benderson Development for $3 million dollars, at least $2 million less than it’s true value. A 2002 appraisal (well before the real estate bubble) valued the public land at up to $5 million.  Real estate prices have recovered and increased since then. The County’s recent $3-million appraisal of the property is a sham. Two commissioners voted against the sale, citing low price as one reason for their dissent.

The Benderson site plan has been submitted. The County’s recent public workshop attracted three participants, it appears because only those living nearby the 42 acre parcel were notified. The Celery Fields’ birds are the largest “affected party” in the vicinity. None of them showed up, and the rest of us don’t qualify for notification.

Regardless of what Benderson Development calls their site plan, it is in reality a trucking distribution center. It represents wasted of time and energy that hundreds put into the Fruitville Initiative. It represents wasted taxpayer millions—$500,000 for the Polyzoides plan and over $2 million in a land sale giveaway.   

Welcome to Sarasota County, aka Bendersonville.   

SRQ Daily columnist Cathy Antunes serves on the boards of the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations and Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government. She blogs on local politics at www.thedetail.net.

[Real Estate]  Market Continues Its Heatwave
Michael Moulton

While I predicted another strong month ahead, I couldn’t have imagined a May with as many important market metrics again hitting such heights. The Sarasota Real Estate Market transactions in May were the second highest in the last 15 years, coming in just a handful less than recorded in May 2013, which was our record setter.  Trendgraphix reported that pending sales, our forward-looking barometer, reached a 15-year high for the month of May, beating last year’s new record by an impressive 11 percent.  Sarasota’s median prices for both condominiums and single-family homes rose nearly double the State of Florida’s average and that of the entire nation!

National economists and industry strategists have opined that the national real estate market is 2-3 percent overvalued, a position they believe is healthy.  When you compare it to the market in 2006 when the same experts declared the market was 26 percent overvalued, it seems that the current pace of acceleration in the price of homes is the type of growth that is sustainable.

Now that we have moved into summer, our traditionally slower season, I do expect some less spectacular growth than we have seen these last several months, but I do foresee continued momentum in a year exhibiting every sign of achieving new records, but doing so in a measured and sustainable fashion.

Though in last month’s report I suggested that our shoulder season would continue to be “hot,” even I was a little surprised to see May come in ahead of last year’s robust action.  Since the market low in May of 2007, the number of properties closed in the Sarasota Real Estate Market has more than doubled.

  • Total sales in May in the Sarasota Real Estate Market increased 7.5 percent from May 2014.
  • The national picture finally warmed up with sales besting last May by 9.2 percent.
  • Distressed sales (short sales and bank owned) as a percentage of total sales have continued to fall. In May those sales were 15.9 percent of total sales in Sarasota, considerably below the 50 percent mark at the bottom of our housing market.  Most of the sales of distressed properties are in price points below $500,000.

For another consecutive month, the Sarasota Real Estate Market experienced extraordinary activity for properties going under contract. While it dropped a little from April’s peak, which is expected in our shoulder selling season, according to Trendgraphix year-over-year showed impressive growth, the 2nd highest in 15 years. This data is one of our best devices to project future sales activity, and to have such a strong transaction flow late in our peak selling season gives weight to my expectations for a summer “heatwave!”

With new construction of many projects reaching either full-reservations for their units or readying for closings and new resident move-ins, the strong international traffic that our summers typically provide, the vast population of baby boomers ready to plan for their retirement, many homeowners return to equity in their current homes freeing them up to either purchase vacation homes or “move up,” the summer skies ahead look sunny to me! 

Michael Moulton is a certified residential specialist broker-associate with Michael Saunders and Company

[SOON]  Bringing Light into the Darkness

A community institution since 2009, Selah Freedom is an organization that has led a thriving movement to actively change the harrowing statistics of sex trafficking by changing lives. You too have the chance to positively impact lives at some of Selah Freedom’s events this year. On August 3, you can eat out for a great cause at Café L’Europe, where 25% of the night’s sales will be donated to Selah Freedom. The organization is also offering a four-session seminar about the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC 101) on August 18 with their on-staff experts. On October 14, in collaboration with Designing Women Boutique, Selah Freedom is excited to bring trafficking survivor Elizabeth Smart to help bring awareness and solutions to our community. Join the change-makers at Selah Freedom this year and help them bring light into the darkness of sex trafficking.  

Selah Freedom

[SOON]  Carrying on the Legacy

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ 40th Anniversary Celebration is kicking off with a great surprise. Selby Gardens is officially dedicating a new, permanent exhibition about the life and times of Marie Selby, which will be located in her former residence at the Gardens. The exhibit features rare, vintage photography, a renovation of the home’s first-floor interior and antique botanical illustrations along with images of some of the most iconic flowering tropical plants that make up the Gardens’ living collection. This event will be the first of many occasions that will celebrate Selby Garden’s 40 years as a world class institution, community asset, and beloved attraction. The event will take place on August 11, 2015- in conjunction with Marie Selby’s 130th birthday.  

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

[SOON]  The Grand Sarasota Opry

Goodwill Manasota and 106.5 CTQ have partnered up to give Sarasota country music lovers the event of the summer. The Sarasota Opry (Sarasota Opera House) will be hope to the “Young Guns of Country” on Wednesday, July 29, where some of country music’s hottest acts will perform. The show features Drake White, the Cadillac Three, Cassadee Pope, and Sugarland’s Kristian Bush- who is also a Goodwill Ambassador. Pick up your free tickets for entry to the show at any of the eight primary Goodwill Manasota retail locations. You might even stumble into some cowboy boots or hats once you’re there to take home with you! Starting the week before the show, 106.5 CTQ listeners can win a pair of front row tickets and “Eat & Greet” passes from radio personalities Maverick and Lulu. Tune in for a great time at the Sarasota Opry! 

Goodwill Manasota

[SOON]  Tasty Trash Fish

The 2nd Annual Trash Fish Dinner at Louie’s Modern is sold out! But you still have a chance to participate in the event by winning tickets for the exclusive dinner. On Saturday August 1, the night before the big meal, LBar is going to be hosting the Trash Fish Pre-Party, where you can snack on light bites, sip on some cocktails, and mingle with the chefs in charge of the dinner. Here, you can enter to win 4 free tickets to the Trash Fish Dinner. Hopefully, you’re the catch of the night! What exactly is a Trash Fish Dinner?  Trash Fish Sarasota is a delicious opportunity to taste underutilized seafood species, learn about the future of sustainable seafood, and connect with leading change makers in the Sarasota culinary community. Chef Kyle Harrington (Libby's Cafe + Bar), Chef Casey Lund (Shore Diner), Chef Paul Mattison (Mattison's), Chef Stephen Phelps (Indigenous), Chef Darwin Santa Maria (Santa Maria Consulting), Chef Mark Woodruff (MADE Restaurant), and Louise Kennedy Converse (Artisan Cheese Company) will be getting 'trashy' in the kitchen at Louie’s Modern on August 2 to benefit Chefs Collaborative scholarship and education programs. 

Tableseide Restaurant Group

[SOON]  Celebrating Innovation

The Ringling College of Art and Design and the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of Sarasota County are collaborating to present the first ever Ringling College “Innovation by Creative Design” award to a Sarasota County company that has used creative innovation to successfully solve a problem. “Sarasota has always been a center for creativity and this award is intended to recognize and elevate current day innovators that embody this enduring spirit,” said Larry Fineberg, Chairman of the EDC Board of Directors. “Basic qualifications for nominations include: a product or service that is available in the marketplace and has demonstrated financial success; a majority of the nominee’s revenues must come from outside Sarasota County; and the specific product or service must have been developed in the past five years. The deadline for applications is August 10, and the winner will be announced a month later on September 11. Self-nominations or third-party nominations are accepted. “This is a terrific opportunity to showcase the kind of innovative, creative talent that we have in Sarasota,” said Mark Huey, CEO and President of the EDC. “Innovation is the number one driver of business growth, and we are thrilled to partner with Ringling College to recognize creativity at its best in our local economy.” 

The Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County

[SCOOP]  A Purrfect New Home

Though Cat Depot’s available spaces are filling up, they don’t hesitate in accepting new cats on a regular basis and sticking to their mission of saving lives, finding loving homes, and providing the necessary resources and education to improve the destiny of homeless cats. This week, Cat Depot welcomed 34 new cats- 20 of which arrived from a local rescue, and the rest of which were rescued by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) all the way from the Lawrence County Animal Shelter in Alabama. Unfortunately, many of the animals from Alabama were emaciated and appeared to be suffering from medical issues such as parvo, distemper and untreated wounds. Some of the animals were being housed in small wire crates and others in crowded enclosures where animals fought for resources and space. Thankfully, Cat Depot stood up and graciously accepted some of these innocent creatures. “We are grateful that we can change the destiny of these deserving animals. Many of the cats from Alabama will need immediate medical care. We are asking volunteers to help feed and clean in the morning and early evening,” said Shelley Thayer, executive director, Cat Depot. “Our hope is that the community will step up with immediate support. Donations are greatly needed to provide emergency medical care and food.” 

Cat Depot

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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