A density increase in the Rosemary District would change the way developers build projects in the north-of-downtown district.
Rosemary advocates say it could usher in and speed up redevelopment and growth in the district, which was anticipated before the current recession and housing crash.
The possibility of an increase in residential density arose at a community meeting Tuesday, Dec. 11, held to discuss a parcel of city-owned land in Rosemary as well as parking solutions.
“We are at a moment in time when the development world is becoming active again,” said Ian Black, of Rosemary-based Ian Black Real Estate. “We have such an opportunity here. The greatest deterrent to redeveloping Rosemary is the zoning.”
During the meeting, developer Mindy Kauffman, who owns Rosemary property known as the old “Boxing Club” at the corner of Central Avenue and Sixth Street, asked a question about increasing density in the district. In response, Sarasota Chief Planner Ryan Chapdelain asked how many people in the room would support a zoning change that would allow developers to build more units in the district. About two-dozen residents and property owners said they supported a preliminary proposal to increase density in the Rosemary District.
Jim Lampl, a partner at Savory Street International Café and Bakery in Rosemary, looked at an aerial photograph of the city-owned parcel at 1440 Blvd. of the Arts before the meeting started.
Lampl said he thinks increased density throughout Rosemary could entice developers who might otherwise not want to build there, but it’s important to limit the height of projects.
“We are asking for increased density, but not big towers,” Lampl said.
Lampl said the area doesn’t want a Kanaya-type project. The Kanaya condo, on South Orange Avenue, towers above surrounding Laurel Park and Burns Square.
Devin Rutkowski, who plans to open a blues restaurant in the neighborhood, said that increased density would clear the way for the area to get new residential projects with units available for younger artists and professionals.
“The goal is a variety of housing with a variety of price points, so we can have a variety of people,” Rutkowski said.
A change from Downtown Edge to Downtown Core zoning in Rosemary would allow a developer to build up to twice as many residential units. Such a zoning change would take about a year and would require a change to the city’s Comprehensive Plan.
The density increase would allow developers to build less-expensive studios and smaller apartment units, Rutkowski said.
“During the big boom, developers were building 3,500-square-foot units (downtown),” Rutkowski said. “Four hundred to 600 square feet of dwelling space is all a young person needs to start a life in downtown.”
City Manager Tom Barwin scheduled the meeting to get input on a private-public project on the city-owned land at 1440 Blvd. of the Arts. The city also owns another vacant lot that is being used as a parking lot. Barwin hopes a project on the land can be a catalyst for future growth in the Rosemary district.
Combined, there are about 1.1 acres that can be used for a public-private “catalyst” mixed-use project.
Current Downtown Edge zoning allows about 27 residential units on each city-owned parcels, but that could change.
A zoning change from Downtown Edge to Downtown Core would allow a developer to build more than 50 units — if the developer could design the units in a project that fits the parcels.
No matter what happens, Barwin is optimistic.
“Something good will come of this,” he said at the end of the meeting Monday.
Pam Anast, owner of the Sarasota Collection Home Store, said that more than residential projects are needed in the district.
“We need people living there,” Anast said. “But we also need retail, places for coffee shops.”
Parking is also a necessity.
City officials are working on a plan to add on-street parking in the district. A parking component could also be included in the project at 1440 Blvd. of the Arts.
“I want to compliment the city manager,” Black said. “This is the first time in 20 years that a city manager has even mentioned the Rosemary district.”
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