As new year starts, a look into the future for the Suncoast

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SARASOTA - From the high-rising stock market to plans for new high rise condos, and even a new niche industry coming to the Suncoast, 2013 proved the best year since the recession. So, what do we watch for this year?

Wall Street saw record gains last year. Financial advisor Richard Stern from R.W. Baird & Co. says that we might not see such lofty heights. But the underlying reasons for 2013's rise, including low interest rates, have not changed.

"It certainly looks as though corporate earnings are going to be strong. Looks like employment's getting better. Looks like consumers are starting to feel a little better. All of those things basically say the market should do very well," Stern says.

From Stern's office, you can see the empty space at the corner of US-41 and Gulfstream Avenue, where developers plan a new condo tower, called Vue. Another one – named Q – has already started construction on Ringling Boulevard. These are just two of about half a dozen in Sarasota alone trying to rise from the ashes of the housing bubble.

"I don't think all of them are going to be able to go (up), but that's pretty exciting because it tells you that developers think that our market is really promising," says Susan Burns, editor of Biz (941) Magazine.

Also well under construction is the Unniversity Town Center mall near I-75. It will fill what many observers call a void in retail on the Suncoast. But it also raises questions about the fate of other stores.

"What's going to happen to Westfield Southgate and downtown Sarasota. A lot of people have concern that it's going to cannibalize these other environments," Burns says.

The University Town Center area continued the trend of sports tourism. Nathan Benderson Park has already begun hosting regional And national events, and won the right to host the World Rowing Championships in 2017.  Now another county park, with a BMX track, plans a similar renovation to become a world-class facility.

"It really will attract amateur and professional competitors from around the world," Burns says. "That's pretty exciting. Not too many people have heard about that yet."