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The last remaining retail tenant at the Palm Avenue building moved out of the space earlier this year, making way for new owner XAC Developers LLC to construct an 18-story building on the downtown land. Photo by David Conway
Sarasota Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 11 months ago

Developer plans high-rise on historic property

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by: David Conway News Editor

The downtown home of two historic buildings could soon be the site of a high-rise condominium, as a development firm has taken a step toward finishing a project first approved in 2006.

The owners of the DeMarcay Hotel and the Roth Cigar Factory buildings, located at 33 S. Palm Ave. and 30 Mira Mar Court, sold the properties for $2.75 million in March. The purchasers, XAC Developers LLC, filed a development application with the city in July to construct an 18-story, 39-unit mixed-use condominium building on those parcels.

In addition to the residential units, the plans call for 1,921 square feet of retail space on the 8,641-square-foot parcel along Palm Avenue. In total, the proposed development is 153,955 square feet.

The city approved a site plan for the land in 2006 under the Downtown Residential Overlay District, which has since expired. Still, that site plan is valid through October 2015, and XAC Developers intends to apply for its building permit before that deadline.

The planned development is a blow for downtown leaders and other citizens who hoped to preserve the historic properties in their current state. Following the sale of the property and the eviction of its last remaining retail tenant, the Downtown Improvement District discussed possible options for preventing the demolition of the Palm Avenue building.

At that time, board members bemoaned the potential loss of historic property — a practice that several people said is becoming too common in the city.

“We just keep chipping away at the historic buildings, and it’s almost embarrassing,” Downtown Improvement District Chairman Ernie Ritz said. “People keep saying, ‘Where’s the historic district?’ You’re looking at it.”

A crowd appeared at Wednesday’s Development Review Committee meeting in opposition to the redevelopment of the buildings. At that meeting, staff informed the developers that some requested modifications could be considered significant revisions to the approved site plan.

Senior Planner Courtney Mendez said changes to the driveway widths, the design of alleyways and the use of the commercial space could qualify as major changes, which would prevent the use of the previous site-plan approval. Additionally, the developer needs to maintain the facade of both historic buildings.

Other staff members said there had been significant concern about the development’s impact on surrounding residents and businesses when the site plan was originally approved. Before a building permit is issued, officials said, developers would have to prove they could adequately construct the project from start to finish.

The next step, Mendez said, is for XAC Developers to make a formal request for minor modifications from the City Auditor and Clerk’s office. Although the owner is intent on following through with the plans for the high-rise, there are still questions that need to be addressed before the historic properties are redeveloped.

“There are definitely some pretty big issues to work through,” Mendez said.

 

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