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Diana Corrigan calls it a career at St. Armands Circle

More than 22 years after becoming executive director of St. Armands Circle Association, Diana Corrigan is looking forward to being at the iconic destination as a visitor.

Diana Corrigan and Richard Corrigan expect to enjoy retirement now.
Diana Corrigan and Richard Corrigan expect to enjoy retirement now.
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The next time Diana Corrigan visits her beloved St. Armands Circle, it will be as a visitor for the first time in more than two decades.

In a heartfelt letter to merchants, former board members and other friends of the Circle, Corrigan last week announced her resignation as emeritus executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association, relinquishing her duties on Tuesday to successor Rachel Burns after an 18-month transition.

She wrote that she was looking forward to spending time in retirement with her husband, Richard, albeit 22 years later than planned.

It was in the late 1990s when the couple closed their business in upstate New York, sold their homes and intended to move to Virginia. In the interim, both of their children moved to Florida, altering their destination southward. They arrived in Sarasota to stay with one of their children when they happened upon St. Armands Circle.

“We got there a little early, so we drove over the Ringling Bridge and as soon as we got to St. Armands we looked at each other and said: ‘This is the place. This is where this is where we need to move,’” Corrigan said.

Move here they did, but her retirement wouldn’t last long. Having been involved in her community in Syracuse, Corrigan wasn’t quite ready to call it a career. Two months after arriving, she saw an ad for the merchant association's executive director position.

“I applied and met with the interview committee twice, and the rest is history,” she said. “It was really us falling in love with St. Armands in the first place that brought us to Sarasota. Little did I know that it was going to be my career.”

It was a career that would bring numerous improvements to St. Armands, in part thanks to the creation of the St. Armands Business Improvement District, providing additional property tax dollars paid by the merchants to be applied toward several projects over two decades.

“You can go any place and go shopping or whatever, but the one thing we have at St. Armands you can't re-create is the physical plant,” Corrigan said. “It is this beautiful island destination, and you're going over the John Ringling Bridge and you're coming to this beautiful, charming little island. Then a block-and-a-half away is the Gulf of Mexico, so you can't duplicate that.

“There are so many unique stores that you don't find any place else and it's that charming atmosphere while walking around, and then you've got that beautiful park right in the center of it all.”


No mistake about it

In her letter, Corrigan wrote, “We’ve come a long way, baby!!!” 

It was a long way from those first interviews in the SACA office in what is now the Wells Fargo building just a block removed from the Circle. As a staff of one, when Corrigan was introduced to her office she found a word processor and a rotary dial princess-style phone.

“I said to my husband, ‘I think I made a mistake,’” she said. “But they really had such faith in me. They told me to just get what I need and they gave me the wings to fly. It wasn’t just me that accomplished all this. Unless you've got amazing horses to run with, you can't get it done, and I’ve always had Triple Crown winners with me every step of the way.

“I've been blessed.”

Chief among the accomplishments were working with the city of Sarasota to build a parking deck and with the state of Florida — Ringling Boulevard is State Road 789 — to make safety improvements on approach to and through the circle, allowing heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic to coexist.

The changes made on both safety and streetscapes, at times those enhancements accomplished both objectives, have only added to the charm of the Circle, Corrigan said.

“The atmosphere on St. Armands is just another one of the reasons why we fell in love with it. When you walked around during season it sounded like a mini-United Nations because there were people from all over the world,” she said. “It was just quaint and it was charming and it was just beautiful to be outside. It looks different today than it did then because of the projects that we've done, but that special feeling is the same today as it was back then.”

After two decades of serving the merchants there, Corrigan leaves the SACA better than she found it, along with an office fully equipped with a real computer and a modern phone system. Now she can love St. Armands the way everyone else does — as a visitor and as a customer.

The Corrigans aren’t going anywhere, other than taking advantage of their free time to travel. Her church is there, so she’ll be there often.

“I'll be able to come to the Circle and I won't be looking around saying that was supposed to get done over the weekend, or what happened with that? I'm actually going to be able to walk around the Circle and not have people say, ‘Hey, I really need to talk to you about this,” she said.

“When we would do special events on the Circle, and especially when we did our Smooth Jazz series, I would watch people out there dancing and having wine and having a great time and look at some of my board members who were working with me and say, ‘I’m looking forward to that. I really, really am.’”


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