Less than five years ago, women used to lock their car doors when they had to drive through the Rosemary District, the area just north of Fruitville Road. It could be a scary place. Homeless people from the Salvation Army shelter populated the streets day and night. The atmosphere was anything but residential. Most of the buildings were shabby stand-alone offices and stores built God-knows-when. There were a few quaint wooden cottages, holdouts from when the Rosemary District was Sarasota’s first black community.
Now it’s the hottest place in town, a young professional’s nirvana. There are 10 or so new apartment buildings—condos and rentals—designed specifically for this market. The rental buildings are among the most unusual in Sarasota. The apartments are not large (a studio starts around $1,400 and a two-bedroom goes for around $2,700), but they come with amenities that will cause the heart of any true millennial to beat a little faster: Zumba classes, free continental breakfast on weekends, fire pits, bike sharing, a Starbucks coffee station and “valet trash,” whatever that might be. There is no pickleball anywhere.
Outside your new apartment you’ll find an atmosphere unlike any other part of town. Green space is not a priority; there’s a beautiful old cemetery, but the general look is white concrete and industrial details. There are architectural and design offices, plus several of the town’s premium modern furniture stores. Restaurants are among the hippest in town, and check out the yoga studios, kickboxing gyms, artisanal cheese stores, etc. Even the convenience store on Central Avenue looks new and different. And when you need more than milk and paper towels, Whole Foods—just across Fruitville Road—will be your local store.
If you want to buy rather than rent, it will have to be a condo or townhouse. The few older homes here have been torn down or are about to be. As for condos, a two-bedroom unit in one of the high-rises facing the Trail can be had for $310,000, though most are in the $400,000s and up. In one of the brand-new, sleek modern boutique buildings (Risdon on 5th, Vanguard Lofts, Zahrada), prices start at just under a million. And the area is full of new townhouses. A brand-new one in a complex called Valencia, with three bedrooms, three baths and a two-car garage, is $545,000.
The Rosemary District has retained at least a portion of its original gritty edge. In fact, nowhere in town are the social issues of the day so right in your face. In addition to the homeless people, you’ll see anti-abortion protesters praying in front of the Planned Parenthood building and several mini-high rises providing subsidized housing for low-income seniors. It’s the “anti-gated community”—lots of cultures, all clashing yet somehow managing to co-exist in a lively and energetic neighborhood unlike anything Sarasota has ever seen before.
Where to Eat
Spice Station: 1438 Boulevard of the Arts
The Overton: 1420 Boulevard of the Arts
Lolita Tartine: 1419 Fifth St.
The Blue Rooster: 1525 Fourth St.
Station 400: 400 N. Lemon Ave.
Home Resource High-end classic modern furniture, including Herman Miller, Knoll. 741 Central Ave.
The Sarasota Collection Home Store Top-of-the-line contemporary home furnishings and accessories. 622 Central Ave.
Canned Ham Vintage High-quality vintage clothing and furniture. Indie vendors market on the third Saturday of the month. 1435 Seventh St.