Longboat Key commissioners and town officials are quick to point out that the Key is essentially built out.
Well, not quite.
Sarasota developer Jay Tallman, president of Ascentia Group LLC, and Northbrook, Ill.,-based BBC Key LLC, are partnering to transform the historic, overgrown, gated five-acre Villa Am Meer parcel at 2251 Gulf of Mexico Drive into a 16-luxury residential condominium site.
If approved, it will be one of the first new luxury condominium projects to be built on Longboat Key since 2007, when Positano was completed. (Earlier this year, Michael Saunders & Co. began taking reservations for the planned 11-unit Infinity condominium.)
The partners submitted a pre-application for site-plan review with the Planning, Zoning and Building Department Sept. 17, and will meet with town staff in early October to review a project that will not seek any departures from town code.
Tallman, who also developed Vizcaya and en Provence — some of the last new developments built on the Key — told the Longboat Observer Tuesday, “I’ve had my eye on this piece of property for a long time,” explaining the property “has a great, interesting history we need to embrace.”
Villa Am Meer means “Villa on the Sea” in German.
A German immigrant named Dr. Hermann Kohl purchased the property in the depths of the Great Depression in 1932, two years after he was indicted on federal bootlegging charges. After Prohibition ended in late 1933, the charges were dropped, and Kohl built Villa Am Meer in 1935 as a winter retreat.
In 1993, the family of the Kohls’ adopted daughter, Elena Benedict, sold the southern parcel of the property, totaling just under seven acres, to the developers of the 38-unit Villa di Lancia.
The Tampa-based Statewide Associates purchased the remaining five acres of the property for $18 million in 2006, with plans to build 30 townhouses. But then the market went south.
Court records show BBC Key LLC became the owner of the property in 2009, after it went into foreclosure three years after the $18 million sale.
Tallman began to keep an eye on the property about a year ago and reached out to BBC Key LLC, a private equity group, and relayed his interest.
“They called me this spring and asked me to explore developing the property because they know the timing is right now,” Tallman said. “I had my eye on this property on Longboat, just like I did for en Provence and Vizcaya. I got a big grin on my face when I got that call.”
The exploration turned into a partnership agreement for Tallman, who knew the project would be centered around preserving the site’s 5,000-square-foot residential house that has sat vacant for years. That home will become the project’s clubhouse and community center.
“When we walked inside and saw the handcrafted wooden beams, arched wooden doorways and attention to detail, we fell in love with it and knew we wanted to keep it,” Tallman said.
What also will be preserved are the site’s old rusty iron gates. The gates will be attached to a future privacy wall that will sit off Gulf of Mexico Drive.
The rest of the site, Tallman says, will be the most modern development the Key has seen since 2007, when Positano was completed.
Tallman assembled local real-estate agents together — like he always does when starting a project — to hold a focus session to help him decide what the market wants.
Tallman will place 16 units that are between 3,800 and 4,000 square feet on a site on which town code will allow him to build 30 units (the site is zoned for six residential units per acre.)
“They all have to have sweeping waterfront views,” said Tallman, who also explains that building fewer units allows him to comply with the stringent floor-area-ratio mandates the town code requires for residential units. “I know the ins and the outs of this town’s code.”
The units will feature a “coastal contemporary theme,” which Tallman describes as “more modern with a style that uses wood to create warmth in a beachfront setting.”
Units will include garages and extended terrace areas with approximately 4,000 square feet of space to maximize the units’ views. Unique sliding-glass doors will open to the large terraces and modern pools that overlook the Gulf. Three or four penthouses will hold private rooftop terraces, complete with summer kitchens and gardens.
Open floor plans with large state-of the-art kitchens and technology, which will allow owners to control everything from the air conditioning to entertainment systems, complete the mix.
Declining to set price points so early for a project that will most likely be reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Board in November or December and by the Longboat Key Town Commission in January or February, Tallman says the project has a total retail value of $60 million.
Reservations could begin in January, and Tallman said the project will take 16 to 18 months to build once approval is granted and dirt is turned on the site.
Noting the redevelopment of the Longboat Key Publix and the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort’s application for a $24 million renovation-and-expansion project, Tallman said, “The time is right. The market has turned and this upcoming season is the time to introduce new, fresh property.”