Although some commissioners were wary of getting burned, the Sarasota County Commission ultimately approved a land-swap deal Wednesday that clears the way for the development of a 150-room hotel at Main St. and U.S. 301.
Last summer, the county put out an invitation to negotiate for the property at 20 N. Washington Blvd., currently a parking lot. In October, the commission directed staff to negotiate a contract with SHD Partners, a development group that was proposing a 9-to-10 story Kimpton Hotel at the site.
SHD Partners’ proposal included a parcel swap that would allow the county to continue to provide parking for its downtown services. As part of the deal, SHD Partners will construct an 86-space parking lot at 2051 Main St., which will then be transferred to the county. SHD Partners will provide $958,000 to the county to cover the difference in the value between the two properties, less the cost of constructing the parking lot.
Several measures in the deal are designed to ensure the completion of the hotel project. Before the closing date of Dec. 31, SHD Partners would have to finalize at least a five-year agreement with Kimpton Hotels, as well as provide proof of financing and construction agreements. The group will also have to place $1 million in escrow as a guarantee the hotel construction will be completed.
Still, if the project falls through after the deal is closed, SHD Partners will keep the parcel at Main and 301 after transferring the escrow to the county. This worried some commissioners, who had an interest in approving the deal only if they were guaranteed to see the hotel constructed.
“I specifically recall looking at (project developer Rod) Connelly and saying what excites me about that deal is that a hotel is going to go there,” Commissioner Charles Hines said. “We're being made aware that may not happen.”
In the end, however, the majority of the commission agreed to move forward with the deal, with Commissioners Christine Robinson and Nora Patterson dissenting. Connelly, for his part, assured the commission that he was as determined as they were to see the hotel project completed.
“We are absolutely committed to this,” Connelly said.
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