» Sarasota County long had one of the strictest set of development rules in the state, reflecting a slow-growth preference among many residents. But changes may be on the way this year. The Sarasota County Commission voted at the end of January to look at loosening regulations on the county's 2050 plan for development east of Interstate 75 — an area long protected by the county's master plan. Commissioners will consider allowing more units, perhaps more height and requiring less open space on the outer edges of developments. “The county is pursuing an openness to quality growth,” says Mark Huey, president and CEO of the Sarasota County EDC.
» Meanwhile, retail and development activity is picking up. The 880,000-sq.-ft. Mall at University Town Center is under construction. In the immediate vicinity are some 500 hotel rooms, 1,750 residential units and a $39.5-million world-class rowing facility under construction in three phases at Nathan Benderson Park.
Business to Watch
» Health Management Associates: The Naples-based company, which operates 22 hospitals in Florida, has opened a centralized billing and collection center in 28,000 square feet at the former Arthur Andersen complex on Fruitville Road near Interstate 75 in Sarasota. HMA will initially employ about 150 at the center but expects to double that number as demand grows. The hospital chain recently announced that it is buying Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg.
|Sarasota Population: 390,845|
|Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.89%|
|Population by Age:|
|Per Capita Income: $56,275|
|MSA||Dec. 2012||Dec. 2011||% Change||Jobless Rate|
|Cape Coral/Fort Myers||259,898||253,831||+2.4%||8.0%|
|Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation|
|Homes - Single-family, existing-home sales|
|MSA||2013 Sales||1-Year Change||2013 Price||1-Year Change|
|Fort Myers/Cape Coral||11,765||-10.7%||$134,000||+27.6%|
|Source: Florida Realtors|