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Sarasota Friday, Dec. 25, 2009 7 years ago

TOP STORY February: City to choose Palm Avenue plan

by: Robin Roy City Editor

Throughout the holiday week, will be counting down the top 12 stories of 2009 (one from each month) from our Longboat, East County and Sarasota Observers. Check back each day fro a reprinting — and any relevant updates — of the biggest news items of the year.


City planners are expected to recommend Feb. 17 one of seven plans for a vacant Palm Avenue plot of land north of Main Street.

It will be the fifth attempt to develop that space. The City Commission has rejected the four other proposals, some of which included parking garages, hotels, condos and retail.

At a November City Commission meeting, city planners recommended the city build, on its own, a 700-space parking garage. They said the primary goal for that property should be to provide downtown parking.

Immediately after that presentation was made, Sarasota-based Githler Development Co. told commissioners it was prepared to build a conference center, hotel and parking garage. Commissioners then opened up the process to any developer who could submit a proposal within in 90 days.

A list of those developers and details of their proposals follows:

Githler Development

As the owners and operators of the Hyatt Regency Sarasota, Githler Development Inc. is familiar with running a local hotel. The company has secured the rights to an Embassy Suites hotel and feels that Palm Avenue is the ideal location for it.

“A project that creates 700 jobs and ongoing economic stimulus is a positive thing for Sarasota,” said Andy Dorr, vice president for Githler Development.

Location — Palm Avenue
Hotel — Yes (Embassy Suites)
Conference Center — Yes (90,000 square feet)
Total Square Footage — 625,000
Height — Hotel is 11 floors; conference center is seven floors
Parking Spaces — 818
Total Cost — $110 million to $115 million
Public contribution — $50 million
Ownership — Up for negotiation, but one proposal has Githler owning hotel, county owning conference center and city owning 500 parking spaces.

Mark Famiglio/Corvus International

This is the one proposal that does not call for construction on the Palm Avenue site. Real-estate developer Mark Famiglio is proposing a conference center and hotel on his property north of Fruitville Road between Central and Lemon avenues. It’s the same property on which he offered last year to build a Boston Red Sox spring-training facility.

Famiglio is partnering with development firm Corvus International on the conference-center plan. He says the Palm Avenue site is too small for a large project such as this. And, he says it’s crucial something like this be built to help fuel the local economy.

“The economic downturn is so much more serious than anyone thinks,” says Famiglio. “(With the conference center), we’ll see a spinoff to downtown merchants.”

Location — Rosemary District
Hotel — Yes
Conference center — Yes
Total square footage — 676,250
Height — Hotel is 10 stories; conference center is five stories.
Parking Spaces — 940
Total Cost — $110 million to $140 million
Public contribution — TBD
Ownership — Developers would own for a predetermined lease period, then could turn it over to the city.

Rocco Santomenno

New Jersey-based developer Rocco Santomenno doesn’t want to own the parking garage he’s proposing. He just wants to manage its design and construction. He’s offering the city three options. First is a traditional parking garage manned by an attendant.

Second is an automated garage, in which the driver pulls onto a movable pallet in a loading dock. A laser scans the car to make sure nobody is inside, and then a computer moves the pallet to a storage area. When the customer returns, he inserts his ticket into a machine and his car is retrieved in less than two minutes.
Option two would be more expensive than option one, but Santomenno is not sure just how much.

Option three is the same as option two, only it has six more floors, for a total of 11 floors; 20 more parking spaces; and 18,000 more square feet of retail space.

— Palm Avenue
Hotel — No
Conference center — No
Total square footage — 100,000
Height — Six floors
Parking Spaces — up to 832
Total Cost — $11.3 million (option one)
Public contribution — $11.3 million (option one)
Ownership — City owned

Triton Construction Co.

Triton Construction did not offer as many details as the other developers did. CEO Brent Virkus says he will build-to-suit a parking garage. He wants the city to tell him what they’d like on the Palm Avenue site, and he’ll build it.

What Virkus did propose is a privately owned facility for a predetermined period, when the property will be leased back to the city. At the end of the lease period, the city would have the option of buying the garage.
Triton’s first major project in Sarasota is the Hyatt Siesta Key Beach fractional ownership resort, which is expected to be complete this summer.

Location — Palm Avenue
Hotel — No
Conference center — No
Total square footage — TBD
Height — TBD
Parking spaces — TBD
Total cost — TBD
City contribution — TBD
Ownership — Privately owned for predetermined lease period, then shifts to the city.

Finfrock Construction Co.
Apopka-based Finfrock Construction is the largest developer of parking garages in Florida. It has built 130 across the state.

William Finfrock, vice president of sales, says his company can save the city money because it has architects on staff, so it will design and build the garage — all under one contract. Finfrock’s proposal calls for the city to own the parking structure outright.

— Palm Avenue
Hotel — No
Conference center — No
Total square footage — 260,000
Height — 4 floors
Parking Spaces — 713
Total Cost — $10.8 million
Public contribution — $10.8 million
Ownership — City owned

Kraft Construction
Kraft Construction is the developer of many of downtown’s most recognizable buildings, such as Whole Foods Market, Five Points and 1350 Main.

“We’re your downtown developer,” says Denise Young, Kraft’s business-development representative. “We bid on this project in the past, so we have a clear, concise knowledge of the site.”

Under Kraft’s plan, the city would pay for, own and maintain the garage. The city has the option to also own the first-floor retail space, or let a third party own it.

Location — Palm Avenue
Hotel — No
Conference Center — No
Total square footage — 95,000
Height — 6 levels
Parking Spaces — 720
Total cost — TBD

City of Sarasota

City planners are expected to recommend either that it separately hire an architect and a construction company to design and build a parking garage or hire a firm that can do both.

Steven Stancel, the city’s chief planner, says the city may be able to save some money by contracting with a company that can do everything under one roof.

— Palm Avenue
Hotel — No
Conference center — No
Total square footage — 49,000
Height — Six floors
Parking Spaces — 700
Total Cost — $13.7 million
City contribution — $13.7 million
Ownership — City owned
City contribution — TBD
Ownership — City would own garage and has the option to own retail space.

UPDATE: The city chose to build a parking garage on its won. Construction is expected to begin in early 2010.


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