McGiffen Development, Inc.
If Sarasota County today enjoys a reputation as that rare Florida community where development has actually enhanced the blessings of nature, much of the credit must go to a few key developers who had the vision and long-term commitment to create neighborhoods of distinction and enduring beauty. Chief among these are the highly respected John W. McGiffen companies, whose contributions to the Sarasota landscape span a quarter of a century and range from luxurious island and downtown condominiums to a remarkable golf-course community now taking shape in Venice.
McGiffen began his career in the North, developing large-scale commercial projects such as convention hotels and office complexes. He and his wife Carmen, who has served as interior decorator on every project, loved Florida, however, and "always came back to Sarasota." In 1968, they decided to build a Holiday Inn on Siesta Key; but delays caused them to build a condominium instead. In those days, few condominiums existed on Siesta Key, and those that did were small, outdated "Mom and Pop structures," recalls McGiffen. Convinced that the market would respond to innovative, exciting design, top-quality construction and outstanding value, McGiffen built La Siesta. The 80 apartments, priced at an even-then unbelievable $23,000-$35,000, sold out in less than six months. More Sarasota projects followed, from downtown condominiums to the spectacular Gulf-and-Bay complex on Siesta Key, which includes five Gulf-front buildings, the adjacent Chateau de Mer, and Bayside, a bayfront community of charming, old-Florida style design.
(The 37-acre Gulf-and-Bay property was the site of an old mansion that had belonged to Washington Post owner Cissy Patterson. Known locally for its legendary parties, the home included the chandelier seen in the famous staircase scene in Gone with the Wind. McGiffen eventually donated the chandelier to the Sarasota Opera, where it hangs today.)
Today Gulf and Bay and McGiffen's other Sarasota communities are home to thousands of satisfied residents, including sports stars, world-famous-artists, young professionals and enormously successful retirees. What attracted them all was McGiffen's eye for gorgeous locations, uncompromising quality and creative design.
Such success has built McGiffen a stellar reputation among banks and industry insiders. Known for his integrity, determination, and a management style of seeking out top people for his team and encouraging them to contribute and develop, he's frequently approached as a consultant on development projects by financial institutions. (That's how he got involved in his newest projects, a luxury $45 million Naples marina and country club development and an island resort in Quebec, Canada.)
McGiffen's most recent Sarasota project is the 460-acre Venice Golf And Country Club. Described by Golfweek magazine as exactly "what a golf-course community should be," the community includes a Ted McAnlis-designed course ("a local legend," says the Sarasota Herald-Tribune), acres of lakes and woodlands and some of the most beautiful homes in Sarasota, from custom-built estates to golf villas and patio homes. Drive along the quiet streets, bordered by bright flowers, palms and shade trees, and you'll spot blue herons, wood storks, bobcats, or an occasional silver fox. All the homes, constructed by a select group of Sarasota's most prestigious builders, have a refreshing, Florida feeling, with pretty pastel exteriors, high ceilings and spacious courtyards, lanais and terraces that bring the glorious outdoors inside. With prices from $150,000-$500,000, the community has already generated $50 million in sales and is home to more than 200 families.
Even though he's developed more than 2,000 hotel rooms, 2,000 condominium units and many luxury homes, McGiffen still loves the process. "It's fun and satisfying to bring a project from concept to completion and create a product that you're proud of," he says, "and to work with talented young people like my partner in construction at Venice Golf And Country Club, Bert Luper." From that first four-story Siesta condo to today's expansive Venice golf community, the success of the McGiffen developments is testimony to his continuing ability to meet the long-term needs of a discriminating market.
McGiffen Development Inc., 109 Overlea Way, Venice FL 34292 (813) 493-3100 or 1 (800) 258-0061.