Named Money's best small city back in 2000, Sarasota boasted miles of white-sand beaches, excellent schools, perpetual sun and affordable homes. Money's ranking helped boost Sarasota from sleepy retirement haven to family hot spot, with all the good and bad that go with it.
These days you can forget about inexpensive housing. In the past six years home prices have more than doubled. In response, the city recently unveiled a program designed to make housing in the area more accessible to low- and middle-income families. Buyers will pay only for building, while ownership of the lots is retained by a nonprofit corporation. The county has maintained restrictions on development, at least in the heart of the city. But that hasn't stopped the metro area from adding 65,900 jobs between mid-2001 and mid-2006, making it the fourth-fastest area for job growth in the country.
Biggest development since 2000: In 2006 the city broke ground on Payne Park, a $9 million, 29-acre park that will include an auditorium, tennis courts, a skateboard park, walking trails and open fields.