Ryan Snyder believes mixed-use development with 16 to 18 homes and a smaller commercial footprint is the solution for the largely vacant shopping center.
Ryan Snyder wanted to lease the anchor space at Whitney Beach Plaza so badly that he made an offer that seemed like one no tenant could refuse: three years’ free rent on the 11,000-square-foot anchor space.
But countless perspective tenants, including drug store chains and national and local grocers, declined the offer.
“There was a zero interest because of the lack of full-time residents and traffic,” Snyder said. “Even giving space away for free, it still takes a bit of money to keep it operational.”
That’s why Snyder believes a residential component is key to making the 5-acre property thrive.
He will ask the Longboat Key Town Commission at its April 18 workshop to forward an ordinance to its regular meeting in May that would place a referendum question on the November ballot that will determine whether he can add density of no more than six units per acre.
A new site plan includes 16 to 18 single-family homes on the property with 2,000 to 3,000 square feet and no more than two stories over parking.
The property currently contains approximately 31,000 square feet of commercial space, of which 14,235 square feet is currently leased, according to Snyder, who plans to keep 10,000 to 12,000 square feet of commercial space.
Snyder said he would likely reconfigure the building where LBK Liquors and beachwear store Rip Current — both of which are owned by Snyder and his family — and Giacomo’s Bar and Lounge are located, possibly giving up some space from the retail and liquor stores, to allow tenants to remain in the plaza if they desire and maintain a smaller amount of commercial development.
Snyder originally sought a referendum to allow tourism use on the property but nixed the request in late 2015, after Floridays Development Co. announced it would seek a referendum to build a hotel on a group of eight parcels directly north of the plaza. In February, Snyder told the Longboat Observer that he would work with town staff to revise his request and seek residential, instead of tourism use.
Snyder believes that with both Publix at the Shoppes of Bay Isles and the Centre Shops on the Key, the north end can’t support 31,000 square feet of commercial space, but he believes it can support a reduced amount.
Town staff believes there’s a need for a limited amount of commercial space at the north end.
“The idea is to keep and preserve enough for the residents and the visitors so that they don’t have to travel to the middle of the Key or the south end for all of their needs,” said Longboat Key Planning, Zoning and Building Director Alaina Ray.
Snyder said the comments he’s heard from neighboring residents of the Longbeach Village have been mostly supportive, but he wants to hear feedback and plans to hold public outreach meetings.
“The town of Longboat Key is not going to buy that property and put a 5-acre park on it, so what do you want it to be?” Snyder said. “If somebody’s got a better solution, I want to hear it.”
Snyder became part owner of the plaza in 2012 through a partnership with JKI Investment Capital LLC, which had purchased the property for $3.7 million two years earlier. He became the sole owner of the property in March 2015.