A chic renovation signals a new life for a venerable high-rise.
When Sean and Dania Castellucci began looking for a downtown apartment several years ago, they wanted a place to accommodate family visitors and hopefully provide a good investment. They took a step that to most Sarasotans would have been unthinkable. They bought a unit in Dolphin Towers.
Yes, that Dolphin Towers.
The setting of a classic real estate horror story, the whole town had been following the saga of the Gulfstream Avenue high-rise. In 2010, a crack appeared in the concrete slab on the fourth floor, and a five-year drama of panic, despair, lawsuits and recriminations ensued. The entire building was emptied, with its displaced residents enduring five years of uncertainty. Could the building be repaired? Would it have to be torn down? And who was going to pay?
By the time the Castelluccis purchased their unit in 2013, things were looking up. Repairs were underway, and it looked like the towers could be saved. But they faced another drawback. No one could enter the building. So they bought their unit sight unseen.
“We knew it was a big gamble,” Sean Castellucci says. “Either we were getting a great deal on an apartment with one of the best views in town, or we were headed for disaster.”
The unit the Castelluccis bought on faith was one of Dolphin Towers’ best. It was located on the 14th floor — one down from the penthouse level — and it had a spectacular view of the bay, the marina and the keys. Pluses included a balcony and two large bedrooms, both facing the view. And as an end unit, it had a bonus: a windowed kitchen.
But it had been unoccupied for years and had the bland, dated look of condos from the 1970s. There was nothing special about it, no wow factor. Sean Castellucci remembered an article he’d read about a Sarasota designer named Mark Dalton and an apartment he had renovated on Longboat Key. Dalton’s company was called Chic on the Cheap, a name that embodied his approach: sophisticated interior design on a budget.
Dalton and his associate, Jessica Napoli, immediately began to rethink the space. Priority No. 1 was to give the apartment a state-of-the art look with an open concept — one large living area that included kitchen, dining and living space all flowing into one another.
Because one of the apartment’s virtues was its exceptionally large living room — it measured 15-by-33 feet — this was accomplished by relocating the kitchen to the east end of the living room. Appliances and cabinets were grouped around the walls, while in the center a large table was set, at pub height, to provide both workspace and seating for meals.
The old kitchen? It has been transformed into a cozy den that could easily be used as a third bedroom. It has a closet.
Napoli, who was in charge of the project, also took a few feet from the large master bedroom to vastly enlarge the walk-in closet and extend the master bath. She paid careful attention to the new finishes throughout the apartment. The same tile, porcelain with a wood look, covers all floor surfaces and provides a seamless transition from room to room. Bathroom finishes are high end and on trend.
To further update the atmosphere, Jessica lowered the ceilings 2 inches to install recessed LED lighting — yes, it can be done in 2 inches — and put in electronic window treatments operated by remote control. And in the kitchen there is a microwave drawer and an impressive farmhouse-style sink, only in steel.
The Castelluccis paid $275,000 for the apartment.
With renovations and furniture coming in at around $100,000, they ended up with a three-bedroom, bayfront apartment with a premium view for less than $400,000. And everything is brand new.
Dolphin Towers’ woes are finally over. People are moving back in, and while renovations in the public areas are still in progress, there’s a new energy in the lobby and the hallways. Contractors and workmen are bustling about. You can feel the building coming back to life.
And the Castellucci apartment is emblematic of the Towers’ rebirth. What was once a fusty relic plagued by woe is now a chic little enclave that’s perfect for young professionals and empty nesters, with views to die for and prices that we won’t see again.
The gamble paid off big time.