Archive for the ‘General Information’ Category

Sarasota, A Cosmopolitan Coastal Community

February 16, 2010

Van Wezel Performing Arts Center

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Center is a purple, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation building located right on the bay in downtown Sarasota. This is the venue where Condoleezza Rice was invited to give a lecture. It was sponsored by the Ringling College Library Association–an organization that raises money for the library at one of the most prestigious art & design institutes in the country.

As a member of the press and the father of the Ringling student that was commissioned to paint her portrait, I had the pleasure of attending her press conference and lecture.

Today’s blog focuses on the community of Sarasota.

Sarasota is a bedroom community located about two hours from Disney World. It is a fascinating cosmopolitan community of extreme diversity.

It is the winter home of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, features higher education at Ringling College of Art & Design, New College, Eckerd College, FSU Film School, Keiser College, Sarasota County Technical Institute, State College of Florida, University of South Florida at Sarasota-Manatee and Argosy University/Sarasota. It has a huge and devoted artistic following, many cultural, educational and architectural highlights and, of course, some of the most pristine beaches in the continental US.

71% of Sarasota is White, 16% Black and 12% Hispanic. The median age is 41. In 2007, 47% were Republican and 31% democrat. The south end of town even has a large contingent of Amish along with two very popular Amish restaurants. This area was featured in the excellent 2002 documentary, “The Devil’s Playground.”

A drive downtown reveals a plethora of fancy shops, restaurants, marinas and artistic venues. A tourist destination, Sarasota has been buffeted by the economic forces–doing exceedingly well during boon times and exceedingly poorly during busts. Now is a great time to get a bargain on a Sarasota condominium!

17% of the population is below the poverty line while in 2006 Sarasota had the distinction of being recognized as the “the country’s meanest city” by the national coalition for the homeless.

Yet it is an idyllic location for a vacation.

They LOVE the Beach

The biggest attraction of Sarasota is the pristine white beaches of Lido Key and Longboat Key. With plenty of vacation rentals and hotels and just down the road from St. Armand’s Circle, renown for its fine restaurants and shops, this is a perfect area for a relaxing getaway.

The Sarasotoa Convention and Visitors Bureau is a good starting place to plan your trip to Sarasota.

While you’re there, pop into Ringling College and say hi to Number Two Son!

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Where is Central Florida and the I-4 Corridor?

October 1, 2008

Election season is upon us. A lot of attention is being paid to the “swing state” of Florida. Often, you will hear pundits refer to “the I-4 corridor” in Florida. But what do they mean?

Interstate 4 traverses the center of Florida from Daytona Beach on the East Coast to Tampa on the Gulf Coast. Along the way, it travels straight through Orlando and, in a quirk of engineering, actually heads due north and south through downtown Orlando (even though it is an East-West Interstate.) Rumor has it that Walt Disney had an impact on the exact placement of the interstate as it was built to travel right beside Disney World.

Interesting Aside: Do you know that our national interstate system has a very specific numeric system? The interstate concept was developed by the Eisenhower Administration as both an efficient means of travel as well as an important component of our national defense. Many people do not realize that all even numbered interstates run primarily East-West while odd numbered ones run primarily North-South. When an interstate has three digits, like I-295, if the first digit is even it indicates that it is a route around a populous area that Interstate 95 runs through. If the first number is odd, it indicates that it is a spur from the Interstate directly into the populous area. Forgive my rambling, but I love reading and interpreting information on maps!

Interstate 4 straddles one of the fastest growing sections of Florida–An area that has seen explosive growth, especially in the high tech industry. Also, an area that is more likely to tip in the Republicans favor during an election. This is the I-4 Corridor.

Another aside: Did you know that Disney’s town of Celebration could be directly responsible for the election of George W. Bush as president? Remember, this town did not exist in 1996. By the year 2000, it had several thousand residents–Many from outside the state of Florida. It is not unusual for 90% of Celebration to vote Republican. And since election results show that W. won the national election by getting Florida’s electoral delegates with less than a 1000 vote advantage in the state of Florida, I believe that one can safely surmise that if Disney World had not created the town of Celebration, Al Gore would have been elected president in 2000.

Celebration, FL

Celebration, FL

I am mentioning this in my blog not only because of the election, but also because I learned something interesting this past week. My business, # 1 Dream Homes, Inc., provides vacation homes to guests who are traveling to Disney World and all the other attractions of Central Florida. My office is located just a mile off Exit 64 of I-4, right beside Disney World. A large part of my advertising is focused on these attractions. This entire blog is focused on these attractions–From the big (major theme parks) to the Off-the-Beaten Path (Ever hear of Spook Hill in Lake Wales, FL?)

To me, Central Florida has always meant this attraction-packed area within a few miles of Orlando. Daytona Beach is 45 minutes away and a place where teenagers hang out during spring break. Tampa is 55 minutes away in the other direction and a place where the upper class enjoy the pristine gulf coast beaches and art milieu of Sarasota. Until this week, I would not have considered either of these areas as part of “Central Florida.” Indeed, even the Florida tourism arm–Visit Florida–Puts a circle on the map around the area of Orlando and refers to it as “Central” while Daytona is part of the Atlantic Beaches in “Central East” and Tampa part of the Gulf Beaches in “Central West.”

But during an industry meeting of Vacation Homes professionals this week, the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors Bureau revealed that when our guests think of “Central Florida” they think of the entire midsection of the state–From the Atlantic Coast to the Gulf Coast. In other words, “Where is Central Florida?” to our guests, it is the entire I-4 Corridor and surrounding attractions AND Altantic and Gulf Coast Beaches.

Daytona Beach Sunrise

Daytona Beach Sunrise

When I expressed surprise at this, arguing that the beaches were a long way from my vacation homes, the response made sense. They may seem a long way for me, but for someone from Chicago or Atlanta or Iowa, they are merely a 45 minute drive. Normally, it would take a guest from one of these places over a day of travel to get to a beach from their home!

So now I am expanding my horizons. I will not only focus on the Orlando Area of Central Florida with both my business and this blog. I will blog about the beaches. I will blog about the Tampa Theatre, the Dali Museum in St. Pete, the art scene in Sarasota. I will blog about Spring Break at Daytona Beach, Bike Week, Reunion Week, and the Crystal River. I may even blog about the Everglades, the Coral Castle, Robert is Here Fruit Stand, and other points on the Redland Trail in South Florida. Wow, we really are expanding!

Where is Central Florida? Well, it is a larger place than I realized it was!

My name is LanceAround and I approved this blog post.