Building Boom

Sarasota is a town on the cusp of becoming a city. And there’s a building boom going on downtown — mostly hotels and high-end condominiums. One, ironically named “The Vue,” blocks some of the view of Sarasota Bay as it crowds in just a few feet from two of the busiest streets in town in a very pedestrian-unfriendly way.

This surge of new construction dwarfs the older “historic” parts of downtown. Of course, change and growth can add vitality and diversity to a community, helping it become a city. On the other hand, too much of one thing can put a community out of balance and sap its strength.

Many of these new buildings will be filled with wealthy older residents looking for a low-key but upscale lifestyle. Nothing wrong with that — unless, of course, they put up a metaphorical wall around downtown to keep out others who are different. In that case, this new growth will suffocate rather than vitalize, and the town will become not a city, but a slightly more dense area of the sprawl that is so much of Florida.

Which will it be for Sarasota? The jury is out.

A View of the Vue at Sarasota Bay

A View of the Vue at Sarasota Bay

Bricking up the View at the Vue

Bricking up the View at the Vue

A Piece of Sky - The Vue at Sarasota Bay

A Piece of Sky

More Next to the Palm Avenue Garage

More Next to the Garage

Feeling the Squeeze

Feeling the Squeeze

Light on the Water

Early morning, and the sun begins to lighten the sky at the Audubon Society’s Venice Rookery. Most people come to see the birds roosting on the small island in the middle of the pond. And the birds are wonderful, as they come awake, squawking and beginning to feed their young.

But so is the gentle rise of color as the sky lightens and reflects off the water. Enjoy this other bit of magic, too.

Between me and the island

Between me and the island

Cattails

Cattails

Urban Dreams

There is plenty to see and wonder about in most urban places. Behind the scenes in the alley there may be places of rest, or of mystery. And the busy street may hide a surprise for the attentive imagination. It pays to keep one’s mind and eyes open.

Evening Star

Evening Star

Chihuly Does South Beach

Chihuly Does South Beach

Back Door Playland

Back Door Playland

Place to Rest

Place to Rest

Keeping Watch

Keeping Watch

Window Dressing

Window Dressing

Naturally Abstract

The Bugs Crawl In, The Bugs Crawl Out

The Bugs Crawl In, The Bugs Crawl Out

Banyan Bandit

Banyan Bandit

Bulbs

Bulbs

Succulence

Succulence

Balance

Balance

Antherium Red

Antherium Red

Through the Looking Glass

At the beach, in the park, or even in the alley behind the abandoned warehouse, step through the looking glass. You never know what you might see!

Looking Glass

Looking Glass

Salt Flat

Salt Flat

Salt Pond

Salt Pond

Vent Angel

Vent Angel

Beauty and the Blight

Much of modern American commercial architecture is a study in faceless anonymity once you remove the trademark pasted on the front. Some might say it is a blight upon the landscape.

But look again and see how the light hits the surface, the details of decay, the geometric composition of shapes and colors. One can find interest and beauty amid the blight, all of which says something about who we are.

Sunlight

Sunlight

Reflection (Oncology Radiation Clinic)

Reflection (Oncology Radiation Clinic)

Traces of the Past

Traces of the Past

The Mall at University Town Center

A new enclosed shopping mall has been built here in Sarasota. All over the country malls are struggling, being re-purposed or abandoned. But here a new one just opened. It is big. It is new. It is filled with things from other places.

They call it “University Town Center”. It is near University Parkway, and in the center of a very large parking lot, so perhaps that counts. There are some other big-box stores and their parking lots nearby, but no real town. This is the suburban fringe.

At the grand entrance just past the valet parking, one is dwarfed by the glass “foyer” containing a water feature and a group of indoor palm “trees”. High expectations for an upscale experience are tempered only by the dressed up, but ordinary, chain restaurants flanking either side.

High Expectations

High Expectations

Whether or not the mall will be a financial success remains to be seen. However, it is unlikely to ever serve as an authentic “town center”. Very little about it is authentic, from the conditioned and freshened air, to the indoor palms, the furniture that discourages rather than encourages interaction, and the piped in music and other sounds designed to create the illusion of excitement and anticipation. It is a monument to creating and fulfilling desires for things — not for creating any sense of community.

With only a few exceptions, the stores and the goods being sold here are the same as in dozens or even thousands of other locations across the country. Nothing, not even the air is authentically from this place. It doesn’t even smell like Florida. One could be anywhere.

But the parking lot was full and people were shopping. This mall is an artifact of our time. The sameness of corporate-led consumerism is becoming a defining characteristic of American life in the 21st century. But will there be a groundswell of those who eventually turn away from the siren song in search of the personal, the authentic, and community?

Dangle the Carrot

Dangle the Carrot

Missing Pieces

Missing Pieces

Family Life

Family Life

Alone Together

Alone Together

Caged

Caged

Quiet Spot

Quiet Spot

PINK is Alive

PINK is Alive

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