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St. Armands Circle: Why You’ll Wish You Had $13 and a Time Machine

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For many, St. Armands Circle is the center of Sarasota.

I spoke with Kathleen Hurley, a Midwest native, who used to vacation on this barrier island on the coast of Sarasota as a young child. In her adult years, she came back to town and grew very confused when she discovered there was a bridge to the mainland…and a place called Sarasota.

“I remember walking hand in hand with my grandfather to get ice cream cones at Big Olaf,” Hurley shared. “We had a favorite spot for lobsters and celebrations, and Charlie’s Crab (now Crab & Fin) meant I got to personally choose my grandmother’s dress and accessories for the evening, which was one of our favorite things to do together, well that and endless gin rummy when it rained.”St-Armands-2012-10c

St. Armands is truly the ideal island for making memories. Where else can you find such a perfect blend of white sand beaches, beautiful homes, exceptional restaurants, upscale boutiques, casual shops, and a mix of annual festivals?  Even the journey out to St. Armands is a lovely experience – crossing over the Ringling Bridge with Downtown Sarasota behind you and azure waters of the Bay all around. What’s more, this Circle is the hub from which Bird Key, Lido Key, and Longboat Key await in all their tropical splendor.

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This epicenter of activity embodies Sarasota’s “it” factor. The perfect day would consist of a long brunch; shopping the Circle to your heart’s content; moving to Lido Beach where you can soak in the sun with a good book; and then returning to the Circle for dinner, where the cuisine and people watching are beyond compare.

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And when you look back on St. Armands’ history, you’ll yearn for a time machine and $13.00. Because that’s how much money its first homesteader, Charles A St. Amand spent for 131 acres in the 1880s to fish and grow vegetables. (The “r” was added to his name years later by mistake.) In the 1920’s, Sarasota visionary, developer, and circus magnate, John Ringling purchased the island. He, alongside the Owen Burns Construction Company, laid out the plans for development.

A statue of John Ringling rests prominently at the Circle, overlooking his vision all these years later.

A statue of John Ringling rests prominently at the Circle, overlooking his vision all these years later.

Fast forward nearly 100 years and St. Armands has become a Sarasota landmark like none other. As such, real estate on St. Armands and homes for sale on Lido Key have gone up in value since Mr. St. Amand started growing tomatoes and cabbages.

This lovely home for sale on Lido Key is listed at $6.5 million and offers spectacular views of New Pass.

This magnificent home for sale on Lido Key is listed at $6.5 million and offers spectacular views of New Pass.

A look at the below chart will give you a sense for today’s market as compared over the last three years:

Market Update

Michael Saunders & Company has not one but two offices on the Circle. Doug Parks, Realtor with the St. Armands Circle II office offered some insight into these figures:

“In both segments, homes and condos are selling significantly faster with the ‘median days to contract’ having been reduced by approximately 50% from 2011. Even with the reduction in inventory, I feel sales in 2014 will continue at a positive pace due to the popularity of St. Armands Circle and its close proximity to Lido Beach.”

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Hurley summed it up best when I asked her the impression St. Armands left with her,  “Growing up visiting Lido, I believed that all beaches had similarly soft and luxurious sand, and comparable technicolor sunsets, and that St Armands Circle was Sarasota. How could that not be true when the daytime sunscreen and sand were washed away with such anticipation, the outfits chosen, the reservations made, and the family evening constitutional begun in Lido’s singular magic purple twilight?

“St Armands wasn’t simply Sarasota, it was everything that was right with the world.”

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If you’ve spent time on St. Armands Circle, share with us your favorite memories in the comments below.

St. Armands Circle: Why You’ll Wish You Had $13 and a Time Machine was last modified: November 4th, 2016 by Kathryn Parks

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