The Downtown Improvement District doesn’t know exactly what’s planned for a historic building on Palm Avenue, but it’s already looking into its options for preventing those plans from going forward.
On March 18, the DeMarcay Hotel building, located at 33 S. Palm Ave., was sold along with the Roth Factory Cigar Building, located at 30 Mira Mar Court. The two properties, sold for $2.75 million, combine to form 8,643 square feet of land adjacent to the high-rise building at 1350 Main St.
The building’s previous owner, Peoria, Ill.-based Palm Avenue Partners LLC, sold the building out of bankruptcy to Barrington, Ill.-based XAC Developers LLC. The property still has a site plan, approved by the city in 2006 and valid until Oct. 1, that allows for the development of an 18-story mixed-use building with 39 residential units.
If the sale of the DeMarcay Hotel and the site plan piqued the interest of the Downtown Improvement District, the status of its only remaining tenant served as a signal that something could be planned. Mark Holt, owner of Posh on Palm, said shortly after the building’s sale, he received notice to vacate it by July 1.
Holt isn’t aware of what the new owners have planned — only that the future of that property doesn’t include his business.
“All I know is we just got our walking papers,” Holt said. “Whatever they’re planning doesn’t involve us.”
Posh on Palm is moving to Venice next month, a move Holt said wouldn’t happen if he wasn’t forced out.
“We love it here,” Holt said. “It’s just a drag — we’re sad to leave.”
At Tuesday’s Downtown Improvement District, board members said they were afraid the DeMarcay Hotel could be demolished without warning. They said the building — listed on the National Register of Historic Places — was a valuable asset for downtown Sarasota.
“I got scared when I saw the tenant leaving,” DID member Mark Kauffman said. “They’re getting ready to demo it.”
City staff also didn’t know what would happen next, but said a local planner asked about potentially modifying the approved site plan several months ago. DID members asked whether it was possible to prevent a new development based on the building’s historic status, and discussed bringing in a consultant to research the significance of the building.
Gretchen Schneider, the city’s general manager of planning and development, said any demolition would have to go through the city’s Historic Preservation Board first.
Whatever the future of the building, DID Chairman Ernie Ritz said the city needs to focus on preserving the assets that allow the downtown area to be classified as a historic district.
“We just keep chipping away at the historic buildings, and it’s almost embarrassing,” Ritz said. “People keep saying, ‘Where’s the historic district?’ You’re looking at it.”
Contact David Conway at firstname.lastname@example.org