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Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 5 years ago

Apartment development on hold


The developer of a proposed apartment project on the largest parcel of vacant land the North Trail has put the development on hold.

The project would have added 150 market-rate apartments to the North Trail, but developer Frank Chinnici said hurdles have prevented him from moving forward.

One of the hurdles is the unique zoning classification for the property.

Half of the property is zoned North Trail zoning, and the other half is zoned single-family residential property. Chinnici’s plan for an apartment complex would require a zoning change to the 6.2-acre parcel on the east side of the North Trail.

“It is on hold until we can put together a coalition of interested parties that can help us overcome the issues that are affecting the site,” Chinnici said in an interview Tuesday.

Advocates for redevelopment in that area consider a project on the large vacant parcel a necessary step toward revitalization in the area between the airport and downtown Sarasota.

In an email sent to City Commissioner Paul Caragiulo and several city planners Friday, Oct. 12, North Trail redevelopment advocate Jay Patel, who is chairman of the North Trail Redevelopment Partnership, noted that although Chinnici has put the project on hold in its current form, Patel wants to set up a meeting to see if there is a way to push the project forward.

Chinnici said he expects to meet with Patel next week.

Patel said the property at 4644 N. Tamiami Trail is a key piece of undeveloped land.

He said a residential development would create a boost for the area and create the impetus for new businesses.

“Not much has happened there in two decades, except the Goodwill,” Patel said of that stretch of the North Trail.

Chinnici’s Legacy Development, headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y., with an office in Sarasota, had the property at 4644 N. Tamiami Trail under contract.

The property is no longer under contact, Chinnci said, although there is an open door to renegotiate with the property owner if he can find “a path forward” for the apartment project.

Chinnici said North Trail zoning, if expanded to the entire site, would have allowed the required density but wouldn’t allow the developer to build above three stories.

“They would have been tiny 250-square-foot apartments,” Chinnici said.

Another possibility was to change the land to a commercial residential district or CRD zoning. However, that zoning stipulates that the developer builds at least 50% commercial on the first floor, and Chinnici said commercial was not in his plans for the project.

Other issues with the proposed development include access from U.S. 41 onto the vacant property and how to align the development to nearby Water Tower Park.

“If you are heading south from the site, you have to cross four lanes of traffic moving at a high rate of speed,” Chinnici said. “That is the single biggest thing, how to deal with traffic on the North Trail.”

Chinnici said he would like to see an additional roundabout at 47th Street and U.S. 41.

Patel sees potential for the vacant land because of its proximity to Water Tower Park.

“It is important because that is one of the pieces that links to Water Tower Park,” Patel said.

He is hopeful about next week’s meeting.

“We are going to sit down and try to talk about how to get it going,” Patel said.

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