Archive for the ‘Sarasota Herald Tribune Op-Ed’ Category

The Rainforest Comes To Selby Gardens

Selby Gardens, Sarasota

In a region famously abundant with first-rate cultural experiences, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens always makes sure that children are never left out of the equation.  For nearly 40 years, Selby Gardens has provided a fascinating, family-friendly destination in which to develop an understanding and appreciation of plant life while opening young eyes to the vital importance of preserving our fragile environment.

To further underscore its commitment to children and the environment, Selby Gardens has just premiered its much-anticipated Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden.   A faithful rendition of a tropical rainforest, the garden provides an authentic setting in which children can cultivate an early appreciation for the living world through creative play and interactive discovery. (more…)

Season of Sculpture

Season of SculptureWhen art collectors acquire great works, they can usually be counted on to exhibit their newest acquisitions in areas within the home that provide the most prominence for all to see and appreciate.  This is often over a mantelpiece, inside a home’s main entry; or in a dedicated gallery space or sculpture garden.

This is precisely what Sarasota’s Season of Sculpture has been doing now for the past 14 years.  Every two years, Season of Sculpture mounts a major exhibition of several large-scale sculptures created by artists of international, national and local stature.   Once assembled, these works are thoughtfully placed on what is perhaps the most visible and cherished piece of real estate in all of Sarasota—its downtown bayfront.  Thus in a single bold statement for all to see, the city reaffirms its longstanding passion for the visual and performing arts that has also proven to be an enormous boon for the region’s economy and overall quality of life.

This week Season of Sculpture premiered Season VII, its latest installation of 18 works by eight artists—a collection that has transformed the bayfront into a spectacular al fresco sculpture exhibit extending from Gulfstream Avenue to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. (more…)

Looking Forward to 2014

400 4 St W-D5794607Investors—who helped re-energize many U.S. real estate markets in addition to our own—appear to be moving on now that home prices are rising.  Naturally, their departure is causing many to wonder if our market will continue to prosper as it has over the past two years.

We not only think it will, but also believe it will become a better stabilized market as more buyers purchase with the intent of living in the homes they buy.

This view is shared by the Home Buying Institute, whose mission is to help home buyers make the best-informed decisions.  Last week they issued eight real estate market predictions to help guide buyers into 2014.   Not the least of these is that Florida’s housing market will be one of next year’s big stories.

Here is their full list of predictions:

  1. Home prices will continue to rise in most cities.  To date in 2013, the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index has shown price gains of more than 12%, with home prices rising in all 20 cities factored-in to the index.  In Southwest Florida real estate, median home prices over the past year have risen by 12% or more, depending on the neighborhood and/or price range.  Most experts are predicting an additional rise of about 4-5% nationally in 2014.  (more…)

The Bottom Line for Luxury Properties

4300higelave_aThis past summer, the Federal Reserve reported that the nation’s post-recession net worth has risen to $74.8 trillion—compared with $67.8 trillion in 2007. That means the value of our homes, stocks and other investments—minus debts and other liabilities—has reached its highest level since records have been kept, not adjusting for inflation. Thus with their post-recession assets better than completely restored—and with their confidence in real estate as a solid long-term investment fully re-booted—buyers for luxury properties in Southwest Florida have come calling again in sizeable numbers. During the first three quarters of 2013, sales of luxury properties priced above $1 million in Sarasota and Manatee Counties rose 26% over the same period in 2012; and were up 53% over the first three quarters of 2011. (Source: Trendgraphix, October 2013) Florida’s Population Growth That property sales are up across all price ranges is underscored by the resumption of Florida’s explosive population growth. Both Politifact Florida and Moody’s estimate that Florida’s population will grow by 360,000 in 2013—which translates to nearly 1,000 newcomers each day. These are remarkable numbers, especially as they represent net migration—people moving in minus people moving out—and are known to include a significant number of high net-worth individuals. (more…)

An International Perspective

LondonNot that they ever came close to being a total panacea for all the issues that beset the U.S. housing market during the Great Recession, but international home buyers brought a positive overseas perspective that definitely helped ignite the recovery in local markets such as ours.

While domestic buyers were frozen in place by the uncertain effects of the economic slump, buyers from other countries were confidently investing in an economy which—for all its recessionary woes—is still regarded from afar as the most stable and resilient in the world.  True, they also braved a U.S. housing market with sharply declining home values, but with a proven history of bouncing back strongly after every rough patch in its cycle.

In possession of this balanced perspective, more international buyers than ever seized on the opportunity to invest in U.S. housing—both to take advantage of our reduced prices while often striving to protect their financial assets from the vicissitudes of their own troubled economies.  Unlike an ounce of gold or a stock certificate, whose values are similarly prone to cycles, here was a long-term investment that could be lived in and enjoyed; or profited from as a seasonal or annual rental. (more…)

A Sarasota Story

SarasotaBayTwo weeks ago, USA Today published a feature explaining why many of today’s retirees are opting for bright lights and big cities.  The article, by Rodney Brooks, quoted extensively from the popular website

“Retirement is like a second chance at life,” says the web site’s founder John Brady.  “Retirees are asking ‘What do I want from life?’  It’s not living in the ‘burbs.  Boomers want to go to plays and movies; and are uniquely positioned to take advantage of what cities have to offer.”

Brooks then recommends New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh as exactly the sort of walkable cities where retirees can live in neighborhoods with far less dependence on cars to move them from one desirable amenity to another. 

In the same breath as these older and larger cities, Brooks also recommends Sarasota.

“It has an urban downtown, but many walkable neighborhoods close by,” he writes.  “There is lots happening, and it is quite possibly the cultural capital of Florida.  And great beaches and keys nearby.” (more…)

Back to School

children_classroomWith the passage of the Labor Day holiday, schools everywhere are now back in session. And if most parents experience a certain amount of joy—at least secretly—at seeing their children back in school after the long summer break, then parents with students in Sarasota County schools should feel positively ecstatic.  For not only have they entrusted their offspring to one of the best-run public school systems in the country, but have enrolled them in schools that collectively comprise one of the state’s highest achieving school districts.

Following are some key facts about the level of success routinely achieved by the Sarasota County School District:

  • Of the state’s 67 school districts, Sarasota’s is one of only five graded “A” by the Florida Department of Education in 2013; and has received the state’s highest mark for each of the past 10 years.
  • Fully 90% of Sarasota County’s elementary and middle schools earned “A” or “B” grades in 2013. (more…)

A Water View

rowing23336129Water.  It’s an essential component of the Florida lifestyle. Water defines our borders, underscores the state’s remarkable ecosystem; and provides a 101 different ways to enjoy our amazing year-round climate.

Because of its mesmerizing beauty and seemingly endless list of recreational uses, water is also the sine qua non of the state’s economy.  Without its beaches, bays and estuaries, Florida would be just another landlocked state for tourists to fly over on their way to some other coastal utopia.

It is even debatable whether Southwest Florida’s highly-developed cultural scene would flourish as it does without the magnificence of the Gulf of Mexico to lure generations of artists, writers, performers and patrons of the arts to our particular stretch of coastline. (more…)


The Great Florida Wealth Migration Resumes

Florida, Gulf Coast, Real Estate, Economic Recovery, Great Recession, Income Tax, TaxAs long as there is year-round sunshine; and plenty of first-rate recreational, cultural and coastal amenities, home buyers will beat a path to Southwest Florida. 

Certainly, the Great Recession clamped-down on the pace of growth; but as our reduced housing stocks suggest, those who postponed moving here because they lacked confidence in the economy—or could not sell homes up north—are once again migrating here in large numbers.  This is particularly true of the Baby Boom generation, whose mass retirement happily coincides with some of the best home buying conditions—including low prices and interest rates—in our market’s history.  Sellers too are happily facing one of the largest and most committed blocks of buyers in recent years. (more…)


The MSC Foundation: Building On A Legacy Of Community Involvement


At a well-attended business luncheon last week—hosted by the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County—the noted Florida economist, Sean Snaith, delivered one of the most upbeat forecasts for our region that we’ve heard in quite some time.

In so many words, Mr. Snaith suggested that even as the most tenacious recession in history finally loosens its grip on the nation’s economy, Southwest Florida’s recovery is poised to break away from the pack based on vigorous improvements in our market’s key housing, construction and tourism sectors. People are moving to Florida in substantial numbers again; and it is showing up on our bottom lines.

Naturally we were overjoyed to hear such a positive forward assessment of our market. Yet, we temper that emotion with the knowledge that the Great Recession continues to exact a terrible toll on many of our most vulnerable citizens—including children, military veterans and the elderly.  It has also placed a punishing financial burden on the various not-for-profit agencies that help those in need get back on their feet. As the recession got longer and deeper, many of the programs and services they once offered have all but perished for lack of public and private funding. (more…)

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