In the past five years or so, a whole new lifestyle has blossomed in Sarasota: downtown living. Once a pokey enclave of older homes and apartments, second-rate retail and sidewalks that were rolled up around 7 p.m., today’s downtown has morphed into what may well be the hippest, hottest neighborhood on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Restaurants, entertainment and shopping are flourishing as never before. And they’re all located in a self-contained square mile that’s perfect for strolling, exercising and enjoying the town’s magnificent bayfront.
Most downtowners live in condos or renovated vintage homes, but there’s another option whose time has come — the townhouse. Usually defined as an attached residence on several levels, the townhouse has long been a fixture in the world’s great cities. Just think of New York City with its brownstones or London with its elegant terraced houses in Belgravia. Sarasota’s townhouses may not have the venerable history of their big-city counterparts, but they also don’t have 200-year-old heating systems or no place to park. They’re beautifully designed, stylish and perfect to immerse yourself in our unique urban lifestyle.
Let’s take a look at three in various price ranges.
1. CREAM OF THE CROP: 1541 Oak St., Unit 11
The cream of the townhouse crop may well be the 23 units that comprise the Burns Court Villas. Perfectly located at the southern end of Burns Court, this complex is a five-minute stroll to Main Street — even less to the bayfront — and Owen’s Fish Camp, the restaurant of the moment, is right out your back door.
Designed in the Tuscan style and built around a pretty garden with a pool, the atmosphere might best be described as “tropical European.” One home currently on the market at 1541 Oak St. is fairly typical. With a total area of 2,124 square feet, it has three bedrooms (one, 23 feet by 12 feet, is currently used as an office), two-and-a-half baths, two walled courtyards (front and back; the back one is perfect for al fresco dinning), a gas fireplace and a glamorous kitchen with Viking appliances and marble floors. The home has three stories — with the third floor being a master suite with a 10-foot-by-10-foot closet. But don’t let the stairs worry you — there’s a private elevator.
The attention to detail is impressive. The finishes are high-end, with custom wrought iron stairway railings, living room built-ins, separate air conditioning for each level and several balconies overlooking the quaint neighborhood. Any drawbacks? Just about the only one we could come up with is there is only one parking place, in an interior garage. Another space may be available for separate purchase.
1541 Oak St., Unit 11 is priced at $719,000. The listing agent is Linda Page, of Michael Saunders & Co.: 504-0123. (Note: As we went to press, this unit had just been placed under contract. Backup offers are being accepted.)
2. BALCONY STUNNER: 1257 Fruitville Road, Unit E
At the other end of downtown, even closer to Main Street’s restaurants and shopping, is this unit in the Encore, a grouping of townhomes built around a central mews. This particular home is a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath residence, with 1,533 square feet. (It feels bigger.) Features include a living room with 14-foot ceilings, complete with an interior balcony perfect for impromptu renditions of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.”
There’s no private elevator, but with only two floors it’s not an issue. The open kitchen, complete with a separate prep sink and dining area, opens onto a covered balcony, which many owners have converted into an office or den. The two bedrooms are a good size, and the master bath has a separate shower and large walk-in closet. The finishes include crown moldings and intricate stair railings, and although they are not quite the equal to the Burns Court Villas, they’re also half the price. There’s an attached garage, plus a carport. And there is a liberal rental policy: You can rent the unit up to 12 times a year, with a one-month minimum.
Because the unit faces Fruitville Road, traffic noise may be an issue. I was pleasantly surprised about how unobtrusive it was, but if it turns out to be a deal-breaker, remember you can soundproof the windows that face the street. And, as for the traffic going by, I found it added a nice urban energy.
1257 Fruitville Road, Unit E is priced at $370,000. It is listed by Valentina Pippin, of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate: 961-3044.
3. BUDGET BEAUTY: 2415 Aspinwall St.
If living downtown appeals to you but you’re on a much tighter budget, you might consider this home in a complex called The Village. It’s not technically a townhouse because it’s only one story, but a recent high-end renovation makes it a unique contender.
Located on the eastern edge of downtown near Lime Avenue and Fruitville Road, the immediate neighborhood is not Sarasota’s most fashionable, but it definitely falls into the up-and-coming category. There’s plenty of shopping nearby, and upper Main Street (Hollywood 20, Mediterraneo, etc.) is an easy walk, though the bayfront is a bit of a hike. Parking is assigned but uncovered.
Once inside you’ll find a sensational renovation that suggests something much more expensive than the $95,000 price tag. The floors are a high-quality wood laminate, and the kitchen and two baths are awash in granite, tile and sophisticated design elements. There are two bedrooms and two baths, in 1,021 square feet. There’s also a patio overlooking a pretty lake. For the young professional looking for convenience and style, this unit is hard to beat.
2415 Aspinwall St. is priced at $95,000. The listing agent is Candy Swick, of Candy Swick and Co.: 954-9000.
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