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Sarasota Wednesday, Jun. 20, 2018 2 years ago

Main Plaza owners ponder changes

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More than two years after buying the Hollywood 11 complex, the owners have no set plans for redeveloping the property.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

The Main Street movie theater has a new name and color scheme — highly visible changes that have, so far, not extended to the rest of the property surrounding Hollywood 11.

The renovations to the movie theater don’t mean more changes are imminent for the Main Plaza complex in the 1900 block of Main Street. After a trio of local entrepreneurs bought the property in 2015 for $18.1 million, the group indicated it would pursue an ambitious plan for improving the commercial center.

More than two years later, there’s no clear vision for the future of the property. Next to the movie theater, the former site of Sol’s NYC Delicatessen is vacant. On the other end of the block near Links Avenue, so is the former Ker’s WingHouse.

Jesse Biter, part of the BBC Main ownership group, said he still doesn’t know what will happen to the property. He said the owners do not feel pressured to make changes on a certain timeline. Instead, they’re focused on selecting the right plan for the east end of Main Street.

“Our timeline was six months two years ago,” Biter said. “Anything now is just a complete guess. There’s not any due dates, not anything time-specific.”

Biter said the owners were weighing two different concepts for the property. One would involve a more restrained renovation plan, designed to improve the existing spaces on the 8.6-acre site and draw in new tenants. The other would be “something big,” Biter said, though he did not divulge specifics.

“It’s a big piece; it’s an interesting market,” Biter said. “It takes the right players to make something big happen.”

In 2015, BBC Main said it was considering adding a new building to the property. The land is zoned for buildings up to 10 stories. At the time, the owners said they could construct a residential complex or a conference center on the site.

Mark Kauffman, who owns several properties in the 1900 block of Main Street, sees the redevelopment of Main Plaza as a crucial step toward improving the east end of downtown. He said he’s been able to lease out properties in the area, but he still hoped to see improved storefronts on the Main Plaza property at some point.

“I think the whole future depends on what the Main Plaza’s going to do,” Kauffman said. “They keep promising, but they haven’t done anything yet.”

Kauffman was happy the county recently decided to remarket its property at the northeast corner of U.S. 301 and Main Street, hopeful that would bring an exciting project to the area. He said he thought it would be a good idea if the Main Plaza ownership group pursued a new residential building on that property.

“They have the parking; they have the location,” Kauffman said. “I think it’d be perfect.”

Earlier this year, a representative for BBC Main approached the Downtown Improvement District about potentially extending the self-taxing district to the east end of downtown. Although the DID considered the proposal, Biter said it was difficult to have conversations about improving the broader area before there’s a set plan for Main Plaza.

“Right now, it doesn’t make sense for us to do anything until we understand what we’re doing on the site,” Biter said.

Although residents and neighboring property owners might be anxious to see major changes at Main Plaza, Biter said the ownership group was confident in its more deliberate approach to improvements.

“We’re not going to rush it for the sake of getting it done sooner,” Biter said

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