An escape to the city

Article Courtesy of  The Herald-Tribune

By Marsha Fottler

Published December 23, 2019

A two-bedroom/two bath apartment on the 14th floor of The Plaza at Five Points is on the market for $1,195,000

Lakeland residents Carol and Don Stephens have been coming to the Sarasota area for short getaways for 35 years, most of that time specifically to Longboat Key where they enjoyed beach condominium living, views of the Gulf of Mexico and days of subline relaxation. But, several years ago they decided they wanted a different kind of experience — an escape to the city.

“We had been hearing a lot about Sarasota’s downtown with its lively cultural scene and we thought that would be just the thing,” said Don Stephens. “We wanted to be close to — walking distance if possible — theaters, galleries, restaurants, shopping, the opera, you name it. We wanted a place where we could park the car, unpack and then enjoy the action. And hopefully not see the car for the next week or so.”

When a 14th floor, two-bedroom apartment became available at The Plaza at Five Points, the couple knew they had found their launch pad for fun, as well as two deeded garage parking spaces.

The 1,671-square-foot luxury dwelling has an extra-large covered terrace accessed by both bedrooms and the living room which frames views of Sarasota Bay and metropolitan life. The couple bought the condominium in 2012 primarily because of its location, right in the middle of everything, and were then charmed by their apartment and The Plaza at Five Points building, which has 49 units (four penthouses) and was built in 2005. It’s a mixed-use complex. The condominiums begin on the 11th floor. Below that offices, financial services, retail, a bank.

The Plaza at Five Points (built in 2005) is a downtown Sarasota condominium/commercial-space building of 17 stories with views of the City of Sarasota and the bayfront. A two-bedroom/two bath apartment on the 14th floor is on the market for $1,195,000.


Carol Stephens, an interior designer, furnished her sky-box with urban polish and custom amenities, the way she would a permanent full-time residence so that she and Don would have every convenience and comfort if they were in town for two days days or two weeks. The double door front entrance opens into a lavish foyer and has views across the living room out to the terrace and beyond.

The large rooms express a relaxed elegance with special features such as grasscloth walls in the kitchen, dark granite counters, double vanities in the master and guest baths, artistic lighting, and custom built-ins. She installed wide-plank hardwood floors in the living room, hall and master bedroom. When the couple moved in, the apartment had two generous walk-in closets, which was more storage than they needed. So, Carol converted one of them into a home-office for Don.

The Plaza building itself, apart from its prime location, has been a source of pride for the homeowners. “We love that The Plaza is pet friendly because we have an eight-pound Yorkie whom we take to the park across the street everyday,” said Don. “The Plaza has valet parking, guest parking, full-time maintenance management and it is impeccably cared for. We could not ask for more.”

These homeowners have also appreciated the 10th floor open-air residents private oasis which includes a heated swimming pool and spa, summer kitchen, outdoor shower, rooftop gazebo, and inside a fitness center and conference room. There’s also a large community room with lounge and catering kitchen.

Carol and Don Stephens have loved everything about their downtown condo with the urban vibe. But, recently the couple put their vacation getaway on the market. It is listed at $1,195,000 through Thomas Netzel of Sotheby’s International Realty and it is being sold turnkey.

“The reason we’re giving it up is that we just don’t use this wonderful place like we used to” said Don. “Our children and grandchildren are in Lakeland and we are involved in their lives and we want that to be the case. Friday nights for us lately are spent at a high school watching the grandkids in some sporting event.

“The last time Carol and I came to Sarasota for a weekend of city fun, we realized we hand’t been there for six months. It was a reality check and we both realized it’s time for somebody else to have The Plaza apartment experience and enjoy the kind of urban getaway we enjoyed for the past seven years.”

Five Points, the intersection of Main, Central and Pineapple streets in downtown Sarasota, has been the center of commercial activities since settlers began to arrive in 1885, the date the Scots first came. Where The Plaza condominium is now, there was originally a wooden boarding house constructed in 1886 to accommodate new arrivals and construction workers. That building was demolished in 1924 to make room for First Bank and Trust Building, the area’s first skyscraper. It had seven stories and an elevator, which alarmed as many neighbors as it impressed.

Other banks have continued to occupy that corner right up to today. Retail, restaurants and offices are on the lower floors of the Plaza at Five Points. A large clock that faced two ways was a signature feature of the bank (s) that have stood tall at Five Points. There’s still a clock today but it’s across the street at the entrance to Selby Park at Five Points.

The area that is today a lighted round-about with flags has traditionally been called the triangle at Five Points. In Sarasota’s earliest days there was an artesian well, drinking fountain, hitching post and a trough for cows, horses and other thirsty livestock that wandered by. In 1911 community authorities outlawed meandering cows at Five Points. Later the triangle was the site of a World War I memorial.

Five Points has always been considered the hub of the city of Sarasota and today people who live at The Plaza at Five Points or work in one of the offices in the building are keeping history alive as well as enjoying modern urban amenities. Five Points was in the middle of the action when Sarasota was a struggling community of settlers intent on prospering and it still is today.