As stakeholders continue to clamor for growth along a stretch of U.S. 41, two new developments offer a sign of hope.
At a pair of City Commission meetings this year, stakeholders from Sarasota’s North Trail have appeared before officials asking for more help spurring redevelopment in an area that has long sought revitalization.
As other parts of the city experience a period of growth, results continue to be spottier along the northern stretch of U.S. 41.
There are signs of progress: The Strand project, which proposes adding more than 150 residents near the Whitaker Bayou, has been hailed as a much-needed catalyst. But there have been setbacks, too: Yummy House Chinese restaurant, which nearby businesses previously cited as a North Trail success story, closed earlier this year as it moved to a new location.
Now, two residential projects near Dr. Martin Luther King Way may offer some hope for those clamoring for more activity along the North Trail. On July 24, Ringling College of Art and Design filed plans for a project that would build a new five-story residence hall and expand a dining facility just off of U.S. 41.
And on July 25, a private developer submitted an updated application for an apartment complex that hopes to capitalize on the property’s proximity to Ringling and other colleges along the North Trail.
The Ringling project, located at Greensboro Lane and Tamiami Circle, would involve the demolition of three existing residential facilities: Idelson, Appleton and Harmon Halls. A new 72,800-square-foot building would more than double the current capacity, going from a maximum occupancy of up to 128 students to as many as 264. The renovation and expansion of the Hammond Commons dining facility would increase the seating capacity from 305 seats to 480 seats.
Tracy Wagner, Ringling’s vice president of finance and administration, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The college has been pursuing a plan for growth since 2006. Ringling President Larry Thompson anticipated the growth could put the school’s enrollment at about 2,000 students — putting more than 500 new people on campus. In 2017, the school filed plans for a 50-unit residence hall overlooking the Whitaker Bayou.
Ringling’s growth plans have drawn a mixed reaction from neighboring residents. Newtown stakeholders have expressed concern about the college intruding into and gentrifying their neighborhood. North Trail stakeholders, on the other hand, have welcomed Ringling’s expansion, hopeful it could translate into broader redevelopment.
The school’s recent growth likely influenced at least one nearby private project. Tembo Enterprises filed preliminary plans for a four-story, 46-unit apartment complex at 2413 N. Tamiami Trail. The plans have been in development for more than three years as developer Elia Rofail worked to finalize details of an apartment project designed to house students attending nearby colleges.
Rofail did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Architect Brent Parker has previously expressed excitement about the project’s potential to draw additional development into the area.
“I think it’s a nice fit for workforce and student housing,” Parker said in a previous interview with the Sarasota Observer.
Another project in the area is mobilizing to begin construction soon. In June, the city received a building permit application for the commencement of Benderson Development’s planned Starbucks at 2455 N. Tamiami Trail.
Steve Roskamp, a member of the North Trail Redevelopment Partnership, said city staff has been talking with the group about other opportunities to encourage even more investment in the area. He said the North Trail remains a tricky district for developers. Given the different dynamics in different segments, he hoped officials would examine a variety of policies and programs to give builders more choices as they considered moving in.
“I think everybody knows there’s no one thing that’s going to stimulate the lots that need to be developed and get them developed successfully,” Roskamp said. “It’s a case by case deal.”