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East County Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017 1 year ago

Questions surround Black Walnut Cafe site

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Lakewood Ranch IDA considers buying lot next to Town Hall to expand parking.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Whether a waterfront restaurant will be constructed next to Lakewood Ranch Town Hall remains to be seen.

But supervisors on the Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority board are contemplating what can be done to ensure guests at Town Hall have enough parking available.

The 1.5-acre site at 8165 Lakewood Ranch Blvd. is up for sale for $1.3 million — about $20 per square foot, according to the property listing. The site, in addition to Town Hall, serves as overflow parking for large-scale events, such as Music on Main.

Existing property agreements allow for the future restaurant to use 15 of Town Hall’s parking spaces for overflow parking. IDA officials were concerned about the parking situation because guests coming to Town Hall for evening events, in particular, are often left with nowhere to park. During Music on Main, for example, all of Town Hall’s spaces are filled and vehicles jump curbs to park in medians and in other no-parking areas.

“What can we do?” IDA Chairman Tom Green said. “We have two options: Do nothing or buy the land to make sure nothing goes on the land that is not agreeable to us. It’s a lot of money for a small piece of land.”

IDA officials could use the property for additional parking or potentially build a secondary structure to Town Hall. The cost, Green said, seems too steep for either scenario.

“We have two options: Do nothing or buy the land to make sure nothing goes on the land that is not agreeable to us."

“We have to do a lot of thinking before we do something like that,” he said.

Supervisor Alan Roth said the site seems unlikely for a restaurant, given its shape and size, and there may not be a buyer.

“It’s an odd piece of land. It’s not even a nice square,” he said. “Do we have anything to worry about?”

IDA Executive Director Anne Ross said agreements with Main Street at Lakewood Ranch and developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch provide Town Hall access to more than 20 spaces at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch as overflow parking, just as Town Hall provides overflow parking for the proposed restaurant site.

Ross said she will talk to representatives of SMR to better understand how the property can be developed and about the IDA’s parking concerns. She’ll report her findings to the board at its December meeting.

Texas-based Black Forest Ventures purchased the 1.5-acre property in December 2014 for $980,000 with plans to develop a Black Walnut Cafe restaurant there within two years. However, the company bowed out of the project in August, at which time it listed the site for sale.

Sean Quinn, listing broker for Black Forest Ventures, said the company is actively seeking a buyer.

“While we have many parties interested for this property, our agreement with the Lakewood Ranch is clear that the new development must still be a restaurant site,” he said. “We’ll patiently wait for the right buyer, and do the best for the community.”

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