On Monday, the Sarasota City Commission directed staff to finalze a purchase and sale agreement with a development team for city-owned land in the Rosemary District, moving forward with a proposed “catalyst project” for the area.
The proposal, called Rosemary Square, would feature a variety of uses along Boulevard of the Arts, Fifth Street and Central Avenue. The project plans call for 40 residential units, 34,000 square feet of commercial, office and fine-arts space, 10,000 square feet for a boutique movie or performing-arts theater and a 7,000-square-foot public town square.
Developer Mark Kauffman, real estate broker Mindy Kauffman and architect Jonathan Parks are the principal leaders of the development plan and have been working on the proposal for nearly two years. The group was the only respondent to the city’s Invitation to Negotiate, issued last summer for the city-owned property at 1440 Blvd. of the Arts and 1433 Fifth St. The project would also incorporate adjacent privately owned land.
Parks said the goal of the development was to “bring arts to Boulevard of the Arts.” In addition to the commercial fine-arts space and the theatre, the group said the apartments would be able to cater to people working in the arts. Mark Kauffman said the units would probably range from 500 to 1100 square feet, and the rental prices would be market rates.
The commission expressed an interest in the overall intent of the project, but had some questions about specifics. Commissioner Paul Caragiulo asked about the project’s use of a north/south alley that is currently used by a neighboring property for parking. City staff indicated they had tried to work with the neighboring property owners about coming to an agreement and adding parking elsewhere, and that they were optimistic about achieving a solution acceptable to all parties.
Vice Mayor Susan Chapman questioned the amount in credits the development could claim for providing parking spaces and other public benefits, which exceeded the sale price of $1,054,500. Kaufmann responded by saying that, if the commission was interested in making the most money possible off the sale of the land, they should probably look elsewhere. If they were interested in kickstarting the redevelopment of the Rosemary District, however, he felt Rosemary Square matched what they were looking for.
“This is really a risky venture,” Kauffman said. “This is not Palm Avenue. This is not downtown. We're looking to be the seminal project here to stimulate the entire district.”
Commissioners agreed, voting 5-0 to direct staff to finalize the purchase and sale agreement and bring it back for ultimate commission approval. If the purchase and sale agreement is approved, staff will then work with the development group on a redevelopment agreement that memorializes the details of the project.
For more information about the Rosemary Square project, pick up a copy of this Thursday's Sarasota Observer.
Contact David Conway at [email protected].