A two-tower hotel and apartment development planned for a vacant parcel of prime downtown land moved ahead June 12.
In a 3-1 vote, the Sarasota Planning Board approved three adjustments for the development, called One Palm, proposed at the corner of Ringling Boulevard and Palm Avenue. The one-acre portion of that property has remained undeveloped since 1986.
One Palm developers Dennis McGillicuddy, a private investor, and John Meshad, of JWM Management Inc., are partnering with iStar financial, a New-York-City-based real-estate investment trust that owns the property at 240 S. Pineapple Ave., in a joint venture to develop the hotel and apartments, McGillicuddy said.
The developers must now seek approval through either a site plan or building permit application. Both processes require city staff approval.
After the June 12 meeting, McGillicuddy highlighted details of the project for a 148-room hotel which will also offer 147 residential units.
An L shaped apartment tower will partially overlook Palm Avenue, while another L shaped hotel tower will be located to the east. The apartment lobby will face Palm Avenue, and the hotel lobby and drop-off will face Ringling Boulevard.
“We are looking for how we will run the hotel,” said McGillicuddy, who in 1998 and 1999 sold Coaxial Communications, a cable television company he co-founded.
The development will also include a restaurant on the first floor facing Ringling Boulevard.
The developers were seeking an adjustment that would allow the 10-story building to be placed 8.5 feet from Ringling Boulevard to accommodate a water drainage pipe, and another adjustment allowing the developer to keep a grand oak tree and wrap the edge of the building around the tree. The developers were also requesting a smaller awning than mandated in the city’s code.
The property at 240 S. Pineapple Ave totals 2.95-acres. In addition to the vacant tract, the property currently houses a parking lot and three existing buildings, including a two-story office building; an 11-story, 129,000-square-foot office tower; and an eight-level parking garage, which will be tied into the hotel and apartment project.
“It will be two separate buildings with a courtyard in the middle,” McGillicuddy said about the development’s preliminary design.
The location at Palm and Ringling was what attracted McGillicuddy and Meshad to the project; the developers had been eying the parcel for some time.
“If you look downtown, it is one of the few locations left to develop,” MGillicuddy said, “and it is a beautiful location. It will add to the vibrancy of downtown.”
Although there are hotels along the bayfront and Hotel Indigo on Boulevard of the Arts, there are no hotels in the downtown core, south of Fruitville Road and east of U.S. 41.
At the June 12 planning board meeting, member Mort Siegel, who voted against the adjustments, wanted to see more specific details about the project sooner than later.
“We should have as much information as possible before we start talking about 8-and-a-half feet here and a canopy this and that,” Siegel said.
Siegel said he was not seeking final plans, but more specifics than what was shown in several preliminary sketches submitted to the city.
Joel Freedman, a planning consultant representing the developers, said they would submit more-detailed plans as the next step. However the developers wanted to know if the planning board would approve the adjustments before they pursued that next step.
“The adjustments (process) was set up because if you don’t know if you can build this, you’re not going to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on plans,” Freedman said. “The design hasn’t been finished yet.”
A previous developer had secured similar adjustments in 2006, but that project on the property was never built.
“We have an unusual situation here, and these adjustments are required to really build anything on the site,” Freedman said at the meeting.
Freedman discussed plans to incorporate a 42-inch-wide grand oak into the development’s plans. To do so, architects stepped the apartment tower back 32 feet.
“We have designed the building to literally cut a hole out of the building,” Freedman said.
Four other oak trees will be cut down, and smaller trees planted to mitigate the loss of the trees. Peter Fanning, president of the Downtown Sarasota Condominium Association, said he was relieved the developer was planning to save the grand oak, but some neighbors were concerned about plans to cut down the other oak trees.
Saving the one large oak will enhance the pedestrian experience as residents and vacationers will be able to walk past the tree as they walk down Palm Avenue toward Ringling Boulevard,” Freedman said.
McGillicuddy said the joint venture is currently in the process of designing architectural plans and a site plan, and hopes to break ground on construction no later than January.
ONE PALM FACTS
2 — Number of 10-story towers on the site
148 — Number of hotel rooms
One acre — The project is slated for land that has sat undeveloped since 1986.
147 — Number of residential units
What’s next: The developers must now seek approval through either a site plan or building permit application. Both processes which require city staff approval.