MADEIRA BEACH — Beach Place residents hope their new four-story mural will start a trend among the city's condominiums along Gulf Boulevard.
The mural, a stylized rendering of sun, sand and waves, was completed several months ago, almost as an afterthought to a $100,000 repainting project for the condominium's two buildings.
In the process of getting bids, the resident committee, led by Ellie Ackley, found it had money left over.
Of the 55 unit owners who responded to her survey, the vote was unanimous to put a mural on the front of one of the six-story condo buildings.
Ackley began interviewing painting companies, followed tips from area decorators, and finally searched the Internet for mural artists to find Blaine Whitford close by in St. Petersburg.
"She was an answer to my prayers," Ackley said.
Ironically, Whitford originally relocated to Madeira Beach about 13 years ago and started creating murals and large-scale original paintings here.
Since then, her paintings have appeared in homes throughout Florida, as well as on public buildings throughout the area.
Whitford is pleased with the design at Beach Place, but at 54, she is not sure she wants to do another 54-foot-high mural.
On the last day of the six-month project, she was buffeted by 30-mph winds as she put the finishing touches on the Beach Place mural.
"It was scary, but a real challenge," Whitford said.
Whitford is no stranger to challenges. She was a Red Cross Disaster Relief volunteer for more than a decade.
Ackley, who suggested the original mural concept to Whitford, describes the result as a "class act."
Ackley hopes what Beach Place has done with its new mural will set a new aesthetic standard for other condos.
"Nobody in their wildest dreams thought we could get it done," Ackley said. "If all the properties in Madeira Beach could do just a little more than a regular upgrade, we would present a polished look that would attract a more upscale clientele."
Mayor Travis Palladeno agrees.
"We are a beach community, and we need to look beachy," Palladeno said Monday.
He, too, is hoping Beach Place's renovation and the colorful welcome banners the commission is considering mounting on light poles near John's Pass Village will give the city a more festive look.
"We are becoming a younger community and need to give the city a facelift to make it look more attractive," Palladeno said.
Tim Tolliver, owner of the SunHost Resorts property management company, said several condominiums along Gulf Boulevard just north of John's Pass were repainted and repaired during the past few months.
Many of the buildings at the southern end of Madeira Beach were built in the 1980s and can be best characterized as plain concrete boxes with little architectural flourish, Tolliver said.
"They have all come up with more vibrant color schemes," Tolliver said.
Beach Place, one of the complexes his company manages, now wants to add another mural to its second building if it can get city permission, he said.
Residents at Surf Song Resort Condominiums, just north of Beach Place, repainted their pre-existing mural, using richer and more exciting colors, Tolliver said.
Nearby, Crimson on the Gulf Condominiums has a freshly painted exterior, new pavers around its pool and new, bright red railings.
Sandy Shores Condominium, next door to Beach Place, is in the process of repainting its exterior.
"A real renaissance was started by the expansion and redesign of John's Pass Village. We have all come up with new colors to fit in with the area's new look," Tolliver said.