The Sarasota Kennel Club could soon be replaced by a residential-focused project, though the prospective owner is open to community input.
After greyhounds ran the final race held at the Sarasota Kennel Club on May 4, a 75-year-old venue appears to be fated for demolition, rendered obsolete as a matter of constitutional law.
Michael Lander doesn’t know what, exactly, will end up replacing the kennel club in north Sarasota. Although Lander is leading a group under contract to purchase 24.4 acres of the property, he says Bronxville, N.Y.-based Wakefield Development Partners LLC is approaching the site with an open mind.
Still, ahead of a community workshop later this month he hopes will provide some clarity on what Sarasota residents would like to see on the property, he already has one central idea in mind.
“I’ve been asking around what Sarasota needs, and it seems to be attainable housing,” Lander said. “That’s tentatively the objective.”
The owners of the Sarasota Kennel Club decided to sell the property earlier this year, with a deal poised to close in early 2020, according to club President Jack Collins. The decision came after Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment last year banning dog racing in the state.
On July 17, a representative for Wakefield sent a letter to the city outlining a series of proposed land-use changes for the property. The developer hopes to change the future land-use classification of the property to Multiple Family (Medium Density), which would allow for a concurrent rezoning of the property from Commercial Intensive to Residential Multiple Family. The proposal calls for a height limit of 35 feet.
The new designation would allow for residential development up to 25 units per acre. In the letter to the city, planning consultant Joel Freedman wrote the developer intends to build up to 340 apartments and an assisted living and memory care facility with up to 275 beds.
Although Lander affirmed an interest in a residential project, he said he was willing to consider a variety of options for the future of the site. Lander cited the property’s size and proximity to both downtown and the airport as attributes that attracted Wakefield to the land.
“There’s absolutely nothing set in stone,” Lander said. “We’re going to do whatever the community dictates.”
Wakefield is not contracted to buy the entirety of the Sarasota Kennel Club property. In October 2018, JBCC Development LLC filed preliminary plans for a Circle K gas station on 1.5 acres in the northwest corner of the site.
The Collins family, which owns and operates the Sarasota Kennel Club, is plotting the future of their business. Although Jack Collins said the racing actually cost the business money — poker and off-track betting remain available on-site — the family is focused on downsizing.
“We are looking at properties throughout Sarasota County,” Collins said. “Here, we have 30 acres, but we probably need only four or five.”
Lander said he was hopeful any new use on the site would be beneficial for the community. He said a finalized site plan for the property could be in place within six months, and the land-use changes could be obtained within a year.
As the developer attempts to engage with the public regarding the future of the land, Lander continued to emphasize the demand he had already heard for more housing.
“It’s not hard to see,” Lander said. “You drive around and talk to people and ask them what they need, and the answer is there. People need a place to live.”
Business Observer Tampa Bay Editor Brian Hartz contributed reporting.