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A vacant parcel near the Palm Avenue parking garage and the Walia hotel application are the only two downtown hotel sites still under consideration.
Sarasota Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011 6 years ago

Downtown hotels in the works

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The best bet for a downtown hotel still lies with a sliver of city-owned property on North Palm and Cocoanut avenues.

The city of Sarasota continues to work to bring a hotel to the 40,000-square-foot piece of land it owns next to the Palm Avenue parking garage.

Chief planner Steve Stancel told the Sarasota Observer the Neighborhood and Development Services Department hopes to finalize by the end of the month an “invitation to negotiate” with potential hotel developers.

Once it’s complete, city staff can begin looking at proposals on an individual basis and negotiate the terms of bringing a hotel to a site that permits a 10-story hotel.

In the meantime, the city has surveyed the property; a recent appraisal came back at $3.5 million.

“It’s a goal of the city to have a working hotel right in the urban core,” Stancel said. “This makes for a good site because it’s a block-and-a-half from the waterfront and a block from Main Street. It’s an attractive site for a hotel developer.”

General negotiation parameters, Stancel said, include a willingness to put a hotel on the site, the mandatory use of the adjacent parking garage and the purchase of the land from the city.

“We anticipate several inquiries that meet those basic requirements,” Stancel said.

In December, the city received three preliminary letters of intent from three developers: University Park-based Benderson Development Company LLC, St. Petersburg-based Strategies Investment Corporation and Sarasota business consultant Steve Bedi.

The Sarasota City Commission reviewed the letters of intent in February and instructed staff to create the invitation to negotiate process.

Once staff completes its negotiation process with prospective developers, it will make a recommendation to the Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board before the commission reviews the staff’s selection.

Another potential hotel site downtown that’s still in the works is Kress International Plaza owner Harry Walia’s plans to build a hotel on the corner of Main Street and Pineapple Avenue.

City planner Courtney Mendez, however, said the application is more than 1 year old and has not been recommended by city staff, because Walia wants the hotel to be 180 feet taller than the city’s 10-story height maximum.

The planning board has upheld the city’s recommendation, and Walia has appealed the decision. The commission will review the application in September.

Other sites that have been discussed for a hotel are part of the Pineapple Square project and the future State Street parking garage.

“Anything is possible with the State Street garage site, which will have retail on the bottom floor and some sort of active use on the second floor,” Stancel said.

The city issued a request this week for proposals to begin soliciting a design build team for the State Street garage, which allows the city to also begin discussions with potential garage retail tenants.

Although there has already been a discussion held about a year-round farmers market and a CVS Pharmacy at the garage site, Stancel said the city has not been approached by a hotel developer for that site.

Other sites that have been discussed in the past for a hotel site include a lot at Cocoanut Avenue and U.S. 41, the site of the former Quay and the Bank of America site at Main Street and Orange Avenue.

But those sites have no current interest, and some former hotel site plans have since expired.

“It appears the ideal spot for a hotel in downtown is near Main Street,” Stancel said.

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