Walkability is so cool!

Walkable communities in Venice, Sarasota and Englewood. 

Every trip begins and ends with walking. Walking is also the cheapest form of transportation for all people, and, in addition, it also has many health, economic and environmental benefits. Walkable communities lead to more social interaction,  

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Picnic in the shade (Venice)

increased wellness and less crime. Overall, walkable communities lead to happy and healthy lives for the people who live in them. That is sweet, isn’t it?

What is walkability?

We use our language to communicate thoughts and ideas, but our language is often imperfect. It can get complicated when we are “inventing” a new word.  Especially, when a single word stands for a broader set of ideas.

A new trend is born

“Walkability” is the new global, national and regional trend. Now for many people the auto dependency of the past is not a desirable option anymore. Past generations have spent a whole lifetime in their cars while driving to the workspace, to schools, shopping or recreation activities. Nobody wanted to walk or bike. Everything had to be “convenient” – and everybody liked to drive. Driving was considered to be part of the individual freedom and showing the new, shiny car when driving to work, was part of that lifestyle. Riding a bike was something only poor people did at that time.

With more traffic and traffic jams this “freedom” evaporated

When the roads got busier and finally clogged up, and when parking spaces disappeared, the dream of individual freedom turned into an “individual nightmare”. Many people now think that time spent in a car is not time well spent. They want to be active, buy and shop locally and live in communities that fit into their lifestyle. Let the people in DC or California waste their lifetime being trapped in their cars, right?

The new generation of Florida home buyers wants a different lifestyle. They do not want to sit in a cubicle for hours, they want to be active. Offsetting 12 hours of inactivity with an hour long activity at the YMCA is not what they want. They like it the other way round. They want communities where they can walk, bike, talk with neighbors and be active.

Some new home builders are listening

If the communities want to attract those “active people” they have to change. In order to achieve high levels of walkability and livability, a community must focus on an array of many different details: Diversity (mix of use), street design (walkways, bike paths, parking spaces), street connectivity, and vehicle speeds are some of the basic attributes.

The level of walkability will also be defined by a lot more characteristics and it does not only revolve around the word “walking”. People want to have spaces where they can meet with other people, where they can interact, where their children can play and where their dogs are happy campers, too.

Change will come

At this point, we are truly in a transition phase. There are many older communities in Florida where the dependence on automobile travel still detracts from the livability. Nobody thought about walkways or bike paths when they were built in the 70’s and 80’s. It

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Venice Chalk Festival

is not easy or sometimes impossible to make a community walkable. No space can be added when there is none. No retailer can be convinced to move there if he thinks he will not survive in that location.

Unfortunately, the range of public transportation choices can only be described as pretty rudimentary or limited at this point. The public transportation system (bus system) is connecting quite a few spots in the area, and in Sarasota County, it is not bad at all. But it is not covering the whole area at all. In many non-walkable communities, there is still a car needed.

Bike- and walkways are essential

Newer communities, which were started about 10 years ago and brand new communities, which are still in their early stages, do reflect the “new thinking”. You can safely bike, walk or do other activities without getting knocked over by a car  Many newer communities have nature preserves, playgrounds, dog parks and pavilions. People can meet, have private parties in dedicated areas or can celebrate their birthdays with neighbors and friends again.

Lakes with kayak launches, fishing piers or skating parks are often integrated. Many newer communities have shopping plazas and other service providers close by.

What are the options?

Basically, two types of walkable communities are available: newer or brand new communities are now designed as walkable communities. An example for such a community would be the “Village Walk” at Palmer Ranch in Sarasota. This is a 500 acre, gated community with 1,177 residences and a “true” town center. Homeowners enjoy

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Beach at sunset

dining options, a marketplace, barber shop and hair salon, a banking center, post office and gas station. All of the everyday services are conveniently located, only a short walk away. Village Walk can best be described as a small town in a town (Sarasota). In October 2015, Investopedia described the 5 best retirement communities in Sarasota. Guess what?

Village Walk of Sarasota was in the second place

The community also offers walking and biking trails, tennis courts, a fitness center, and a heated swimming pool. Only if the residents want to go to the beach or want to go to other shopping and dining options they still need to use their car.

The other type of community started out as a conglomerate of houses which eventually transformed into a walkable community. In the beginning, nobody actively designed it as a walkable community, it almost “happened by accident” that the community transformed

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The village of Siesta Key

into one. Well, almost.

The Village of Siesta Key

A good example for such a community would be Siesta Key. The Village of Siesta Key started out as a little fishing village and grew over time into what it is today. Now there is everything within walking distance and some of the islanders almost never leave their beloved island and their “Village”. We actually know islanders who do not have a car. They get along with a bike and a nice sun tan.

The Village has changed over the years

When I managed a hotel in 2001/2003 the traffic was still bad. It was sometimes a pain if you had to cross the main street. Too many cars and too fast. 15 years later the pedestrian is king. Cars have to slow down and because the parking space was limited there are overall fewer cars. Visitors tend to park in the periphery now. Which makes it a lot safer.

Other natural walkable neighborhoods are Historic Downtown of Venice and Sarasota Downtown.

Of course, there are no gates and no community pools in these types of walkable neighborhoods. There is only the big pool which is called “the Gulf of Mexico”, and this one is always within walking distance wherever you are on the island.

We’ll bring to you a list of walkable communities in Sarasota, Venice, and Englewood:  stay tuned and check back often.

Bay Street in Osprey: You can walk to the Post Office, 24/7 Super Wal-Mart, Tiki Bar on the Bay, Coffee Shop, Churches, Dental Office.

Bird Bay in Venice: Walk to Banks, Medical facility, restaurants, Big Lots, Save-a-lot, Richards Wholefood, Winn Dixie, TJMax, Dollar Store and more. Bike to the Historic Downtown of Venice and the Beach. Access to the Legacy Bike Trail.

Rosemary District in Sarasota –  Walking distance to all of what downtown Sarasota has to offer, across from the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, near Ringling Museum, St Armand Circle, and Lido Key Beach. 

Broadway in Sarasota:  Step out of your door and walk to Publix a grocery store. Walk to Banks, stores, downtown Sarasota. Bike over the bridge to St. Armands Circle. Bus Stop is right there. Walk to Sarasota School of Arts, Van Wezel, Restaurants, Bars, and Coffee Shops.

Village Walk in SarasotaTown Center featuring state of the art fitness center, lending library with computer & internet service, meeting/party/card rooms catering kitchen, 2 GEO Thermo heated pools, a lap and resort style pool, 6 lighted har-tru tennis courts, restaurant, gift shop, hair salon, and miles of biking/walking paths along our many lakes. Located close to shopping, Dr’s office, and hospitals

Oyster Creek in Englewood: Walk or take your golf cart to a 24/7 Super Walmart, Dental offices, Cafe, Pizzeria, Hiking and Biking Park, Daily Produce, Walgreen’s, Animal Hospital.

Venetia in Venice: Walk to a 24/7 Super Wal-Mart, Books a Million, Panera Bread, Bealls Outlet, banks everything you will find in the busiest area of small shops and big chains. EVERYTHING.