A developer is asking the city to approve a 17-story building that exceeds the standard limits on height and density for downtown projects.
A developer has filed plans with the city to construct a 17-story building with 129 hotel rooms and 54 residential units at 1703 Main St.
If approved, the building would be Main Street's only hotel and one of the tallest structures in Sarasota east of Five Points.
The applicant, Aventura, Florida-based Trepp Developments, is requesting a special exception to the 10-story height limit for properties in the downtown core. The city’s zoning code includes a provision that allows the director of development services to approve up to two buildings that exceed the downtown core height restriction, allowing projects up to 180 feet tall.
The city has not approved any projects under that regulation since the 2004 adoption of the downtown zoning code. Initial feedback from city staff indicated the developer may have some challenges persuading officials to approve the request. In a memo prepared for Wednesday’s meeting of the city’s Development Review Committee, Development Services General Manager Kevin McAndrew cites a provision in the code that states the height increase may be more practical for large projects that are at least half an acre. The site of the proposed development is .43 acres.
The project, which also incorporates the parcel at 22 Goodrich Ave., would necessitate the demolition of three existing buildings. The land is the site of Il Panificio pizzeria, Main Street Shoe Repair and Fringe Spa Salon.
Developer Rodrigo Trepp Birnbaum said he was interested in pursuing a project in downtown Sarasota because it’s a growing market with sustained demand for expanded hotel and residential capacity. Birnbaum said he planned to bring a Hilton-brand hotel to the site. Downtown has seen an influx of hotel projects over the last five years: Since 2016, the Aloft Sarasota and Art Ovation Hotel on Palm Avenue and the Embassy Suites and Westin Sarasota on Tamiami Trail have added more than 700 rooms. Still, Birnbaum said there is capacity to cater to tourists interested in staying in a downtown setting with walkable dining and shopping options.
“Beside the beaches and the bay, people that get to Sarasota want to know Main Street and the downtown area,” Birnbaum said.
The same goes for those looking for a more permanent place to stay. Downtown has also seen an increase in residential construction, but the demand remains high for condos and apartments, Birnbaum said. Plans for the Main Street project include one-, two- and three-bedroom units between 685 and 1,750 square feet. Like other developers that have invested in downtown luxury residences, Birnbaum listed island residents looking to downsize in a more central location as a target market.
“There are a lot of people selling off their homes on the beach to come downtown, because they spend most of their time downtown, and the supply is zero to none,” Birnbaum said.
The plans for 54 residential units exceed the maximum density of 25 units per acre allowed in the downtown core. To facilitate the project, the developer intends to purchase the rights to construct up to 33 units from the neighboring property at 1743 Main St., which Sarasota Memorial Hospital owns.
The development proposal also includes a 4,500-square-foot ground-floor restaurant, which Birnbaum suggested could be an Italian restaurant or a steakhouse. Birnbaum acknowledged the 1700 block of Main Street's reputation as a quieter segment of downtown east of a more concentrated hub of activity between Orange Avenue and Gulfstream Avenue. He suggested the restaurant — in addition to the population tied to the hotel and residences — could alter the character of the area.
“It’s going to be an interesting point to light up the middle of Main Street,” Birnbaum said.
If the city approves his plans, Birnbaum said he hoped to begin construction on the project by early 2022 and complete the building in the first quarter of 2024.
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