Kensington Park, Sarasota:
Kensington Park is a residential community of over 1120 homes located approximately three miles northeast of the Downtown area of Sarasota. It was started in June, 1956 by the Paver Construction Company. It consists of 420 acres, with attractive, tree-lined streets and well-maintained single-family houses. It is bordered by Lockwood Ridge Rd. and 17th St. Named after the area where the Pavers lived in Great Neck, N.Y., the neighborhood was one of the first fully sustainable developments in Florida, with its own central water supply and sewage system. Its features include the Gocio Elementary School, located at the north end of the park, and the Calvary Chapel on 27th Parkway. It is bisected by a greenbelt where power lines are located and is intersected by a number of drainage canals which remove water during times of heavy rains. It is conveniently located near shopping centers, a villa community with 184 homes including apartments, and a dog park. One of the older communities in Sarasota, it continues to be an attractive place to live.
LOOKING BACK ON 50 YEARS OF KENSINTON PARK
1954 – 2012
By Naomi Duff
The Paver Brothers wanted to build a development that was close to downtown Sarasota, and that had ample room for a friendly community with recreation and commercial facilities. They found a willing seller and suitable site in Schmidt’s Dairy Farm, a 440 acre tract of land in close proximity to downtown Sarasota, off Lockwood Ridge Road, and across the street from where the Glen Oaks subdivision is now located (another Paver development). Glen Oaks was the winter home and headquarters for the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus. In the early morning, if the wind was just right, the roar of the lions and the trumpet of the elephants could be heard. The streets, “Circus Blvd.” and “Circus Mobile Home Park”, still remain just off of Beneva Road next to the Shriner’ Temple and the entrance to the Town and Country Shopping Center.
Before some of the streets were put in, you had to drive through the field to get to your home and hope it hadn’t rained because you could very easily get stuck. If someone forgot to lock the gate at the nearby farms, cattle would escape and would walk down the streets of Kensington Park until someone rounded them up. This also happened with some of the circus animals.
Although I haven’t found a timeline as to when the building of the homes actually began, I have heard from others that construction probably began in 1956 or 1957. In the Association Secretary’s report of 1958, when the first meeting of the Association was held at the First Baptist Church on Lockwood Ridge Road, mention was made that Units 1 & 2 had been completed and Unit 3 was under construction. Before construction could begin on Unit 4, which includes the Recreation Center, Schmidt’s Dairy Farm Buildings had to be removed. The first Association meeting that was held in the newly constructed Recreation Hall took place in April, 1960 with 225 residents in attendance.
The Recreation Hall was later sold and is now the home of the Calvary Chapel. But in its heyday it was the hub of social activity in the community, for parents as well as kids, including scouting, luaus, the Aqua Bells (synchronized swim team), cookouts, card parties — you name it.
Kensington Park was the first subdivision in Sarasota County to have its own water plant and also the only park with villas at that time — 1961. The focus was on the new shopping center. The Association lobbied for Publix or Kwik Chek to move into what is now the Northeast Shopping Plaza. In June of that year, Kwik Chek opened its doors. In addition to a neighborhood grocery store, residents were also able to shop at the new variety stores in the Center. Six units were now under construction and the villas, (Unit 8) were in the planning stage. Visitors could see the nearly finished model units.
When Units 7 and 9 were completed, there were approximately 1118 single family homes built in Kensington Park. Purchase prices started at $12,450, $13,850 or $14,950, depending on the size of the lot and the number of baths and bedrooms. There are 165 villas and two apartments which were sold separately and are not governed by the Kensington Park Civic Association.
1963: The By-Laws were written and the Blood Bank was established. At that time, the Sunshine Committee, that sent get well and sympathy cards to Park residents, was formed. Also, the Garden Club was formed and became very active.
1964: The Garden Club was responsible for the planting of over 150 trees in the Park.
1965: 250 of 560 members attended the April Association meeting, and the KPCA became incorporated.
1966: The monthly newsletter was formed and was named “Kenzette”. There was a discussion on the topic of creating a Kensington Telephone Directory. Also at this time Gocio Elementary School, which is located at the north end of Kensington Park, was opened in the fall of this year.
1969: The Swim Club was taken over by the YMCA.
1972: The Park was given the choice of purchasing, selling, or disposing of the Swim Club from the YMCA.
1970’s and 1980’s: concerns were mainly for the upkeep of the Park, including the need for more stop signs, beautification of the Park, complaints of dogs running loose and junky carports. Many of these problems continue today. Another concern was the increase in water and sewer rates. In 1979, the Security Patrol was formed. Over seventy residents volunteered, which was enough to protect the Park on a daily basis. In 1988, nine years later, the Patrol was discontinued because of lack of interest.
1990 to 1999: After not having the Security Patrol for eight years, it seemed the time came to reinstate it in 1996. It is still active today. In 1999 over 200 oleander bushes were planted along Monica Parkway, and also new plants were placed at the entrances to the Park. New signs were added at the entrances to replace the wooden signs.
2000 to 2010: The census that was conducted in 2000 noted that there were 3,250 residents living in 1,118 homes in Kensington Park. It will be interesting to know how many residents are living in the Park today. Also during this time, the speed limit was reduced from 35 to 25 mph. One three-way stop and two more 4-way stop signs were added. In 2004 the sidewalks on 27th St. were installed on the south side of the street, and in 2007 Monica Parkway received sidewalks. Northeast Shopping Plaza planted some bushes along Monica Parkway to hide the view of the back of the Shopping Plaza. In 2008 there had been a number of accidents occurring at the light at Beneva and 17th St., so the Board requested that a solar sign be installed and the curb be painted yellow. Also during this time, the wall on 17th St. and Beneva Rd. was painted by volunteers and new plexiglass was installed in the entrances. In 2009, streets were repaved and 800 trees were planted on 27th St. and Prudence Drive by the County. Gold Ave. and 17th St. received some much needed trees and plantings that gave it a park-like appearance.
2011: Water connections for irrigation were placed at some of the entrances to the Park.
2012: A historical marker was installed on Monica Blvd. depicting Kensington Park as being registered with the County for 50 years. It tells the story of the development of Kensington Park by Marty Paver and his two sons, Paul and Stanley.