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Doing Right: The Art of Building Community Through Real Estate and Public Art

On any given day, you see cars stopping across the street from 1717 Second Street in downtown Sarasota, Florida – people admiring new twin, 20-foot murals. The murals adorn the white stucco walls of the multi-tenant office building. Throughout the day, people take selfies with the vibrantly colored pop art honoring medical workers.

“If I had to use a word to describe how this project came about, it would be ‘serendipitous,’” said Elliot Rose of Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT in Sarasota, who worked with clients Ronnie Shugar and Donda Mullis to have the tribute to essential workers painted on the newly purchased East Coast headquarters for Raw Sugar Living, a plant-based personal care company.

Ronnie and Donda’s vision for their office building predated the COVID-19 crisis. As longtime Los Angeles residents, they love mural art that defines the city. After closing on the property in Florida in January 2019, Elliot set a meeting with the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County. The organization immediately received their proposal; however, the mural was temporarily put on hold to focus on business operations.

“Serendipity came into play when Sarasota Magazine wanted to dedicate the cover of its May/June issue to the medical community tirelessly working during the pandemic,” Elliot said. The publication approached the Arts & Cultural Alliance about creating a mural to be featured in the issue. Elliot, Ronnie and Donda’s inquiry immediately came to mind.

With members of the community donating equipment and resources, the group enlisted local artist Karen Chandler to paint the Sarasota Heroes mural in a matter of 10 days. The fact that the building is across the street from the administrative offices of Sarasota Memorial Hospital is another element of serendipity in the mural’s story.

While chance played a role in the creation of the mural, it is Elliot’s values as a person and a Coldwell Banker Commercial professional to serve clients and the community that got the job done.

Do Right

“Every Coldwell Banker colleague I know is big-hearted and involved in giving back to the community,” said Elliot. “Real estate brokers are sometimes thought of as just trying to make money – that’s not true.”

Elliot described the sense of camaraderie among agents from different Coldwell Banker offices. “Whenever a hurricane strikes one region of the state, offices across Florida mobilize to load up vans with necessities and supplies. You know they’ll have your back if a storm is headed your way.”

Elliot’s interest in bringing murals to Sarasota goes beyond his business dealings with Ronnie and Donda. He sees value in employing local artists and creating a sense of pride in the community.

“I’ve reached out to cooperating brokers to share my knowledge and connections in this area,” Elliot shared. “I’d be delighted to walk them through the process if they’re interested in creating murals for their clients.” Elliot and his wife made a personal donation to help fund the cost of Sarasota Heroes and hope that the murals will mark the start of a more vibrant, art-filled city.

Winning Together

For Elliot, the relationship with a client continues after the deal closes, both to build a lasting connection and to find ways to give back to the local community. Elliot’s collaboration with Ronnie and Donda is only beginning.

“For every Raw Sugar Living product that is sold, the company donates a bar of soap to organizations and families in need across the country. They’ve contributed over 10 million bars of soap to date,” said Elliot. “We started a dialogue about charitable events their business could host in Sarasota. It fulfills their desire to give back to the community and helps me be the best citizen I can.”

Elliot is proud to have a Coldwell Banker Commercial sign displayed outside Ronnie and Donda’s building. “I’ve gotten calls from prospective tenants who love the murals and need space,” said Elliot. “Even more than those opportunities, I get the greatest satisfaction hearing the murals are being embraced by medical workers and the entire community.”

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