For eight years, Matt Kihnke has owned the property at 300 S. Pineapple Ave., and for eight years that property has sat undeveloped.
A sign, which appeared on the site of the former gas station about two weeks ago, is the first signal the lot at the corner of Pineapple Avenue and Ringling Boulevard is about to undergo a transformation.
“Sansara,” the sign reads. “Coming soon.”
Sansara is the name of the 10-story, 17-unit luxury condominium building planned for the entry point to Burns Square. Kihnke said the name, which means continuous flow, was selected to communicate the building’s zen-inspired design. The name can also refer to the cycle of life, death and rebirth, which Kihnke said was particularly fitting for the property.
“It’s kind of a zen, meditative connotation,” Kihnke said. “I like the definition of it. It’s a rebirth, and I think that’s kind of a rebirth of that piece of property.”
The condos will range from 2,280-square-foot, three-bedroom units to a 4,555-square-foot penthouse, for a total of about 45,000 square feet of air-conditioned space in the building, Kihnke said. The units will range in price from $1,349,000 to $1,999,000, with the penthouse unit priced at about $3.5 million. The $30 million project targets baby boomers living in the city seasonally, current Sarasota residents seeking to move to the urban core and people wanting to move up to a larger living space, Kihnke said.
The ground floor will include 3,600 square feet of commercial space; Kihnke said no tenant has been identified to occupy that space. The building’s second floor will feature an amenities area which, according to Kihnke, will include a workout area, a yoga studio, a private zen spa area, a pool and a day bed lounging area.
“It’s very unique to the city of Sarasota,” Kihnke said of the outdoor amenity area. “It’s going to have Asian garden-inspired features and be very beautiful.”
Kihnke, the president of Chicago-based MK Equity, first acquired the property in 2005 for about $1 million. He said his group has always considered building a condominium building on that property. After rezoning stemming from the Andres Duany-led downtown master plan limited the allowable height at the property to 10 stories, a planned 18-story building was scuttled. The economic downturn left the property to languish for even longer.
As the market recovered over the past year, MK Equity settled on the 10-story condo development, moving forward eight years after acquiring the land.
“In the past 12 months the market has been more solid than it has been the last number of years,” Kihnke said. “We believe there’s somewhat of a pent-up demand for new construction product in Sarasota, and we’re hopeful we can fill that void.”
Kihnke said the project should be completed around August 2015. The presale period will last about five months, concluding around the end of April. Construction is slated to take 13 months, and Kihnke hopes that process begins in May.
Nearby Burns Square business owners said they were happy to see progress made at the long-vacant property. Leann Swor, the owner of L Boutique and president of the Burns Court Neighborhood Association, said creating a more inviting entrance to the community would be a huge positive.
“The city did such a nice improvement with the roundabout, and it’s just kind of a sad piece of property,” Swor said. “Sitting there, it kind of breaks up the pathway from downtown when you’re coming into Burns Square, and it’s kind of a dead zone.”
Swor said she wasn’t familiar with the project beyond the sign posted on the property, but she was optimistic about the outcome.
“I know Matt, and I think he’ll do a great job with it,” Swor said. “He cares about the city, and he cares about the property, and I’m sure he’s going to do a beautiful development.”
Nancy Krohngold is the owner of Nancy’s Bar-B-Q, which sits directly across the street from the former gas station. Regardless of what’s developed at 300 S. Pineapple Ave., she said anything new would be a boon for the neighborhood.
“That spot has languished for a long time,” Krohngold said. “Anything that brings more commerce — be it retail or residential or anything — to what I think is the biggest hidden gem in Sarasota, Burns Court, is a fantastic thing.”
Like Swor, Krohngold said creating a welcoming entrance for visitors to Burns Square would be one of the most important benefits of a new development.
“It’s vacant, and coming off of the roundabout, it’s at the gateway to Burns Court,” Krohngold said. “It’d be fantastic to have something that speaks to the area’s vibrancy as opposed to something that’s vacant.”
As it stands, perhaps the most notable fixture at 300 S. Pineapple Ave. is a homeless man named Ian.
Ian’s expansive encampment on the former gas station has drawn ire from some people, according to property owner Matt Kihnke. In October, City Commissioner Susan Chapman responded to a constituent email complaining about Ian’s expanding footprint on the site, stating she didn’t understand why his presence didn’t create a code enforcement case.
According to Kihnke, his reason for letting Ian stay was twofold. He said he didn’t like the bad karma that might come with asking Ian to uproot from where he had settled, and Ian’s presence worked as a preventative measure against the building being vandalized. In his eyes, it was a win-win situation.
“He’s kind of a built-in security guy,” Kihnke said. “He’s kind of harmless — he doesn’t do anything, and he watches over the site, so I’ve kind of let it go.”
Other business owners in the Burns Square area viewed the situation in a less-favorable light.
Nancy Krohngold, owner of Nancy’s Bar-B-Q, said Ian’s presence hasn’t negatively affected her business, but that she does occasionally receive inquiries from customers about the situation across the street.
“There have been a few people who say, ‘What about that guy?’” Krohngold said. “I informed them that there has to be a no trespassing sign put up by the property owner in order for police to remove someone.”
Leann Swor, owner of L Boutique and president of the Burns Court Neighborhood Association, called the situation sad.
“I think we all just want the best for (Ian),” Swor said. “It’s tough for the property owner, as well — we’re all hopeful that he can find a better place to live.”
Kihnke knows he’ll have to ask Ian to move for construction to begin, but he’s in no rush to make him find a new place to stay — even as sales begin at Sansara.
“At some point, obviously, it has to happen to start the building process,” Kihnke said. “I would hope (his presence) wouldn’t discourage people from buying there.”
Contact David Conway at email@example.com