Sandra Velasquez has lived in Sarasota for 28 years but had never ventured south of Stickney Point Road on Siesta Key before February, when she started working at Siesta Key Salon and Spa.
“You can’t really see it (what’s south of the road),” Velasquez said.
A large green traffic sign directing cars to Siesta Key public beach sends most traffic north off the Stickney Point Bridge. But, just to the south, Siesta Key Marina, CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, Bank of America and an abandoned gas station front Stickney Point Road. Jewelry stores, a sandwich shop, a 7-Eleven, a drug store and restaurants do business even further south off Midnight Pass Road.
Then, one street south of Stickney Point Road, is Old Stickney Point Road, home to several retail stores and restaurants and an abandoned nightclub that peeks through palm trees and is visible to cars passing over the bridge.
“It’s kind of in a hole back there,” says Bill Singleton, co-owner of Crescent Beach Grocery. In 1952, Singleton’s father-in-law opened Crescent Beach Grocery. About 30 years after his father-in-law sold the business in the mid-1970s due to health problems, Singleton bought it back and revamped the building on the corner of Midnight Pass and Old Stickney Point roads.
Sarasota County staff is working with two south Siesta business owners, Aledia Tush, owner of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, and Dave Stewart, owner of Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar, on a public works project to add lighting and make the area more attractive for new investment. And, it could lead to a new lighting district on the island — and redevelopment around some of the oldest buildings on the Key.
Sarasota County Traffic Engineering staff member Ryan Montague said Florida Power & Light has conduits in place for street lighting and said adding basic overhead lighting would not affect the budget much.
“I think it’s a great idea for Old Stickney Point to be more illuminated,” Singleton said.
Tush and Stewart, whose businesses are both located off Old Stickney Point Road, have met with staff about installing upgraded decorative lighting.
“At this point, nothing has been decided at the county end or the FPL end,” Montague said.
Sarasota County has l44 lighting districts that range in size from 10 to 9,000 properties, with ad-valorum tax rates from that of the Village district on Siesta to 0.62. The proposer of an overlapping tax district, such as the one being considered on south Siesta Key, would need signatures of two-thirds of the property owners within the planned area and commission approval to establish a new district.
“I would certainly be willing to take a look at it and what it can generate,” Singleton said. “We do try to work together and help out any way we can.”
In 2008, Sarasota County and FPL finished the Siesta Key Village beautification project. Property owners within its bounds pay into a special taxing district to compensate the county for the work and continuing maintenance. The amount paid per parcel is based on a millage rate of roughly 3.97 applied to values the Sarasota County Property Appraiser assesses every year. Village businesses also pay into the Siesta Key Lighting District.
A new overlapping lighting district for south Siesta Key would function the same way, and the additional tax rate would be tacked onto the 0.011 rate they already pay to be part of the Siesta Key Lighting District.
The amount of commercial properties in the Village dwarfs the 14 on south Siesta by more than five times, according to property records. Singleton is skeptical the area could support a new lighting district.
“It seems there’s not going to be a huge tax base to work off of,” Singleton said.
Road to redevelopment
Adding illumination to Old Stickney Point would provide a safer path at night from the shops at the intersection of Midnight Pass Road to whatever future business occupies the nightclub property.
“I think the area is ripe for redevelopment,” said Lee DeLieto Jr., a Realtor with Michael Saunders & Co.
The 18-year-old abandoned nightclub on Old Stickney Point remains the youngest building in the roughly 11-acre commercial district on south Siesta Key. The building last sold in 2004, for $1.2 million, but the 35,700-square-foot property is worth less than half that now, according to the Sarasota County Property Appraiser.
“I’ve been marketing that property probably for more years than I’d care to admit,” said DeLieto Jr. “The seller and I both know the existing building, and the condition it’s in, is not attractive.”
Palm trees, a storage facility and a marina surround the gray two-story skeleton of the nightclub.
Dr. Gary Kompothecras, owner of 1-800-ASK-GARY and a 29,000-square-foot home south of Point of Rocks, also owns a residential property directly south of the former nightclub. According to DeLieto Jr., Kompthecras has had an interest in purchasing the nightclub property for four years, but has not been happy with the asking price of $1.5 million.
The building abuts a 14,950-square-foot property housing a storage facility. A developer could bundle those two properties and build a new retail center, which is more compatible near residential zoning than a late-night hangout, DeLieto Jr. said. The narrow, two-lane Old Stickney Point Road empties into a multi-family residential development and single-family homes along Peacock Road.
“I think the biggest issue is the size of retail and what it can generate,” Singleton said.
Siesta Key Salon Spa owner Maggie Criollo said business has mostly come from tourists over the last several months, but wants to build a local clientele to buoy business outside of tourist season. Criollo said she makes sure to patronize her neighbors; she says a person can find almost anything they need in shops along Old Stickney Point Road and Midnight Pass Road.
“We’re all in this together,” Criollo said. “The businesses help each other out.”