The downtown area starts at the bay front with its own marina, a large bay front park that is home to numerous community activities and bordered by several high rise condominiums that take advantage of both water and downtown views. The downtown area is also home to many of the County’s artistic venues including the Sarasota Opera House, Van Wezel Performing Arts Center and the Florida West Coast Symphony. The streets are rarely quiet and the commercial activity downtown is vibrant. There are shops and restaurants but more notable is the large number of galleries that call Palm Avenue and Main Street home. The first Friday of each month is celebrated with the “Palm Walk” where most of the stores and galleries will stay open late, serve refreshments, and host the community that enjoys the festivities. Every Saturday morning, parts of Lemon Avenue are closed off for the Farmers Market. Several times throughout the year the lower part of Main Street is closed and festivals are held highlighting the area’s Arts and Cultural community or more notable, the annual Reading Festival which brings writers from around the world for a week of activities for the entire community.
The core downtown area has many condominium projects completed or under consideration. The neighborhoods surrounding downtown are a mix of live/work communities, housing for artists that include their own studios in the Laurel Park area for example. The area north of downtown is Gillespie Park that is experiencing a great resurgence in popularity. This area surrounds a large beautiful park and many of the homes in this historic district are being purchased for updating and revitalization.