2020 People's Choice Winner: Historic Downtown Stuart
Historic Downtown Stuart
The City of Stuart is tucked away along the shores of Martin County in sunny South Florida. While Stuart serves as the official county seat, it’s better known by its moniker, the “Sailfish Capital of the World.” Approximately 30 years ago, local leaders set out to transform the city’s nondescript downtown area by restoring it to its former 1920s glory. The end result was a warm and welcoming destination that became a cultural and community hub, which continues to develop and expand to this day.
Stuart is regarded as one of America’s most charming hidden gems, as indicated by notable press coverage in outlets like Oprah Magazine, Coastal Living Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, and more. While its exact boundaries are somewhat blurred, a series of approximately 13 blocks contain the charming waterfront downtown district.
To build upon Stuart’s time-honored legacy, the city recently completed a series of renovations on the downtown’s main thoroughfares: Osceola Street and Flagler Avenue. Aligned with the Community Redevelopment Plan, the refresh took approximately one year to plan and construction lasted about 90 days from start to finish. To support the local businesses lining both streets, the city launched a “streets are closed but we’re still open” campaign.
The recent upgrades have revitalized the vibrant historic downtown region by incorporating beautification efforts and making the destination more pedestrian friendly. A river theme was incorporated into the aesthetics to mirror its privileged location overlooking the St. Lucie River, and examples of improvements include artistic crosswalks; decorative bronze sculpture skateboard wheel stops; and new landscaped medians to break up the streets and increase pedestrian safety. Additional updates include increased parking spaces, more shade trees, new seating areas, and repaved roads.
There’s always something happening in this coastal community, with live entertainment year-round in venues like the beautifully restored Lyric Theatre, which originally opened in 1926 as a silent movie house. Local artists showcase their works in the various galleries, studios, and museums sprinkled throughout town and attract locals and visitors alike during the First Friday Creek Art Walks each month. There are also more than 50 independently-owned restaurants, bars, and boutiques lining the quaint streets. Add craft and art festivals and award-winning events, and there’s something fun for everyone to experience.