Gulf Gate Beat: Village Beautification


This is the third post in a series I have been writing on Gulf Gate’s rise from disrepair to what has been referred to as Little Brooklyn. Like the first two posts—"Il Panificio” and “Jim’s Small Batch Bakery”, "Gulf Gate Area Merchants Association” piggybacks off the insightful predictions of Sarasota Magazine’s Bob Plunket.

In his 2012 article “The Next Hot Sarasota Neighborhoods,” Plunket speculates Gulf Gate will become the sought-after area we homeowners (and Realtors®) enjoy today. In fact, my Gulf Gate Woods listing just went under contract in only 20 days—with multiple offers). Plunket credits the success of the restaurants and bars in Gulf Gate Village for attracting new residents to the area like Brooklyn once lured Manhattanites. You can check out the listing at 

“Brooklyn didn’t take off until it got better restaurants and bars,” Plunket writes.

The reality for the retail stores in Gulf Gate Village, however, is somewhat different. A recent memo to the Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) explains that improvements to the Village still linger from 2004 when property owners were “generally opposed to any financial contribution that required an assessment or tax." In the following articles, Sarasota Observer documents more recent efforts by area merchants, which have put them in the driver’s seat for developing a Neighborhood Plan with $500,000 earmarked by the County for 2019’s "Gulf Gate Village Beautification.”

March 31, 2016

In his article “Gulf Gate Lures Young Entrepreneurs,” Sarasota Observer’s Alex Mahadevan covers the opening of a Lounge, a rental space for educational opportunities and special events, in the Village’s wellness-oriented Wild Ginger Apothecary owned and operated by Nicole Leffler. Mahadevan uncovers a developing culture of collaboration among Gen-Y retailers.

“I think what we’re trying to do is create a little Brooklyn,” one young owner told Mahadevan. “Sarasota can have its downtown and Central Park, but we’re kind of OK being Brooklyn.”

May 19, 2016

Sarasota Observer’s David Conway writes, “Gulf Gate Merchants Plot New Association, reporting on the first meeting of a group of village businesses held in Leffler’s new Lounge. According to Conway, merchants reached out to Sarasota County government for guidance on ways to initiate and fund village enhancements.  The creation of a merchants association would strengthen the advancement of their concerns, allowing them to flex their collective muscle for the long overdue improvements to Gulf Gate Village.

Leffler answered the call by filing Articles of Incorporation for the GGAMA, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary.

I discovered the active not-for-profit in my research on the Division of Corporations website and followed the address of its president to Little Brooklyn’s Ground Zero—Leffler’s Lounge. That is where my story begins.

March 5, 2018

In a memo signed by the BCC, Director of Planning and Development as well as Neighborhood Services and Long Range Planning Manager Jane Grogg, Neighborhood Services sheds light on the background on the public-private venture to improve Gulf Gate Village. According to the document, talks began in 2004 between county staff and Gulf Gate business and property owners. Fast forward to today, and there is a $500,000 earmark for improvements to the Village. If we imagine these improvements, what predictions can we make from them?

March 21, 2018

I attended Sarasota County Neighborhood Services first formal meeting with GGAMA. The BCC earmarked $500,000 from a Penny Sales Tax Program for capital improvements to Gulf Gate Village. Neighborhoods Services Manager Jane Grogg and Planner Katie White facilitated the meeting with residents, property owners, business owners and other stakeholders to design a Neighborhood Plan. The resulting numbers will be presented to the BCC for funding.

Minor Glitch

“Turnout for Neighborhood Plan was great,” Leffler writes to me in Facebook Messenger. “Even if a majority was there in support or opposition of the church vs. alcohol license issue.”  

Leffler explains that the first hour of the meeting was spent quieting supporters from both sides of an issue unrelated to the improvement initiatives. Grogg recently presented to the County Commission on an issue related to selling liquor for onsite consumption. A local law created in 1974 affects Gulf Gate Village, as it prohibits the sale and consumption of alcohol at bars and restaurants located within 800 feet of a church or school in 2018. A church recently moved into a commercial strip in the Village, leaving new business owners high and dry when it comes to liquor licensing.

“Some change is needed because of what happened in Gulf Gate," Commissioner Hines says. “I think we can all agree on that.” Click here to watch

The BCC was in agreement and requested that the County Administrator draft an ordinance to remove Sarasota County's restrictions, so that the new County restrictions mirror the State of Florida, which only addresses the separation between schools from bars at 500 feet. 

“A stronger unity is where it starts,” Leffler writes in a Facebook Message. (Brooklyn’s motto is “Unity in Strength.”)