On a postcard-perfect afternoon not long ago, I found myself on the rooftop bar at the 18-story Westin Hotel, looking around at a city in transformation. East of the placid blue bay, cranes and girders reached to join a skyline that includes seven new buildings of 18 floors, the top height allowed by the city.
It’s been dubbed “the billion-dollar boom”—“although it’s well exceeded that amount by now,” says Sarasota city manager Tom Barwin. Since 2015, the city has approved plans for 1,700 apartments, 1,400 condominiums and 1,000 hotel rooms. Those projects and ones to come are expected to swell the city’s population of about 55,000 people by nearly 20 percent—around 11,000 more people—over the next dozen years, and that does not account for the growing number of visitors and workers who now push the city’s daily population to 100,000 or more.