The owner of 14.5 acres of bayfront land is preparing a mixed-use project including condo, hotel and retail space.
Nearly a year after purchasing the land for $27 million, the owner of the former Sarasota Quay property is taking steps to begin developing the vacant 14.5-acre bayfront site.
The scope of plans, which are still in a preliminary stage, is tied to a development agreement the city approved for the previous owner in 2007. The mixed-use project, called Sarasota Bayside, would include up to 695 condominium units, 189,050 square feet of retail space, 20,000 square feet of office space and a 175-room hotel.
GreenPointe Communities, the Jacksonville-based company that purchased the land in December 2014, submitted a letter to the city Nov. 20, requesting a community workshop to discuss proposed use of a city right of way. The group should submit a revised development agreement early next year, according to GreenPointe Regional President Rick Harcrow.
As GreenPointe prepares to go through the city’s review process, Harcrow says the group believes the site offers the opportunity to connect to booming or burgeoning portions of the city. The land is in close proximity to two top redevelopment targets: the Rosemary District and 42 city-owned acres of land surrounding the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
"We want to really be open and transparent about allowing pedestrian flow into the project." — Rick Harcrow
“Rather than sort of looking at the four corners of the property and working inwardly, we have to think beyond the property lines about what our site can do to complement the surroundings,” Harcrow said.
Harcrow said the group was taking a placemaking approach to its plans. The 2007 development agreement calls for the creation of two multi-use recreational trails, one on U.S. 41 and a scenic route along the water. Harcrow said the developer has embraced the trails, and other aspects of the project would be designed with pedestrian use in mind.
In addition to a central “meeting place” within the property, Harcrow said the group wants to offer a stronger connection to the land north of the site. Currently, the independent group Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 is plotting a potential redevelopment plan for that city-owned land.
“We would not only have U.S. 41, but we would create some sort of Main Street linkage to the property to the north,” Harcrow said. “We want to really be open and transparent about allowing pedestrian flow into the project.”
Real estate revival
Under the ownership of Irish developer Patrick Kelly, the original 2007 plans for the site fell through following the recession. Builders have revived several projects halted by the real estate market crash, and new developments have been proposed.
Two blocks south of the Quay site, Vue Sarasota Bay will create 275 hotel rooms and 144 condo units. Just across the street, two other hotels are slated to add another 400 rooms. In October, the Vue developer revived plans for a mixed-use project on State Street with 157 condo units and 50,000 square feet of retail space.
"From what we see, the fundamentals are positive and they seem to be poised to be that way for the next several years." — Rick Harcrow
That last project was scaled down from pre-recession plans, which called for 80,000 square feet of retail due to a strong existing retail market.
With Sarasota experiencing a boom, Harcrow said it’s a challenge to ascertain exactly how much additional demand the market can bear. Based on what it has found during the planning process, GreenPointe has not shied away from tackling a significant undertaking.
“Good developers are always trying to understand the fundamentals of the market, to understand the environment in which we’re developing,” Harcrow said. “From what we see, the fundamentals are positive and they seem to be poised to be that way for the next several years.”
The eventual project will be constructed in phases, Harcrow said. He estimated it would likely be a five- to seven-year project.
If everything goes according to schedule, the revised development agreement should be submitted after the first of the year. Harcrow anticipates the final stages of the approval process would take place in spring 2016.
Given the considerable interest surrounding the property over the past decade, Harcrow said GreenPointe has been carefully considering the best approach for the land over the past 12 months. As the project continues to move ahead, he said that philosophy would continue to guide the developer’s decision-making.
“We take this challenge very seriously, and we’re very methodical in our approach,” Harcrow said. “We’re not going to jump in and make a hasty decision.”