St. Armands Circle is a popular, modern commercial center deeply entwined with the development history of Sarasota. This historic link immediately exudes charm in the Roman and Greek statues around St. Armands Circle. Many of these artworks are from the collection of John Ringling, the famed circus magnate who pursued much of Sarasota’s development.
St. Armands Circle today is host to a wide selection of 140 boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. It also flaunts a Circus Ring of Fame located in the St. Armands Circle Park to honor the Ringling circus tradition.
The development of St. Armand Circle began during the Florida real estate boom in the 1920s. John Ringling developed it as part of a larger plan that included residential lots around the commercial section—St. Armands Circle. The plan gained momentum with the completion of the John Ringling Causeway Bridge in 1927.
Prestigious peripheral estates
The lots platted around St. Armands Circle were marketed under the St. Armands Division Ringling Estates. John Ringling at once envisioned a prestigious address for the estates. He named the road running north to south bisecting St. Armands Circle as the Boulevard of the Presidents. This boulevard’s arterial streets were notably named after famous presidents: Washington, Jackson, Adams, Arthur, Madison, Fillmore and Van Buren Drives.
There are plenty of historic residences at the St. Armands estates, especially along Washington Drive. The St. Armands residential area features waterfront mansions and old-Florida-style bungalows. The most striking properties in this neighborhood are those with fountains cascading at their gateways flanked by perimeter walls draped with blooming bougainvillea.
The residents of the estates have a front-row seat to all the special events regularly held at St. Armands Circle. Tourists and locals alike troop to St. Armands not only to shop and dine but also to partake in shows and festivals held here at various times of the year.
A delightful experience for all
The Circle marks the start of the Yule season with the traditional Christmas Tree lighting. In December, select establishments also host a Ladies Day/Night. Creative talents take over in January for the St. Armands Winter Art Festival that draws more than 175 artists and craftsmen and ranks among the top art shows in the U.S. The month of May brings auto enthusiasts to St. Armands Circle for the annual Corvettes Car Show. Check out the site of the St. Armands Circle Association for more events updates.
Over the years, St. Armands Circle has had plenty of makeovers and improvements. The recent upgrades in the area included the construction of a $12-million parking garage on N. Adams Drive. This project, which was completed in December 2018, likewise featured the undergrounding of utilities in St. Armands Circle.
The four-level garage features 484 parking spaces, public restrooms and five electric vehicle charging stations. It also includes a bicycle storage and repair station. The St. Armands Circle parking garage also runs a bicycle rental program.
St. Armands’ connectivity with Downtown Sarasota is also being enhanced through the Coon Key Multi-Use Recreational Trail. This new 10-foot wide multi-modal trail is accessible to bikers and pedestrians and is set along both sides of the John Ringling Boulevard. Endemic trees are notably being planted along the trail to replace invasive Australian species, thus helping create an authentic Florida experience in the cusps of St. Armands Circle.