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Top Stories - Siesta Key: June

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  • | 11:00 p.m. December 26, 2014
Benderson Development plans to redevelop the remains of a vacant mobile home park near Siesta Key.
Benderson Development plans to redevelop the remains of a vacant mobile home park near Siesta Key.
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Benderson Development, one of the two firms behind the mega mall planned at the University Town Center, has begun the initial pitch for a hotel and shopping center on the other side of town.

But some residents are concerned about traffic issues, which has been a frequent criticism of the new mall.

The Sarasota County Development Review Committee heard a pre-application presentation June 19 for Siesta Promenade. For that project, Benderson plans to build a 150-room hotel and 250,000 square feet of retail space in 12 structures at the intersection of South Tamiami Trail and Stickney Point Road, according to a site plan.

The company and county staff will invite interested residents to a neighborhood workshop to collect public input and explain the project at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, at South Trail Church of Christ.

“We envision a place where customers will park once, window shop, have a nice dinner or just ice cream and simply enjoy another quality Sarasota experience,” said Benderson Director of Development Todd Mathes.

Pine Shores Estates mobile-home park previously occupied a majority of the 24-acre property.

Benderson, using the name Siesta 41 Associates LLP, bought the property in four parcels for more than $20 million in 2005, but it remained vacant after the mobile-home park closed in 2008. The firm aims to re-zone the various lots to a commercial general designation.

Plans include more than 1,000 parking spaces situated mostly toward the interior of the development and a new traffic signal proposed for Stickney Point Road.

“The project presents itself as urban infill in the midst of ‘Old 41,’” Mathes said in planning documents.

Organizing opposition
When the Florida Department of Transportation added a “no turn on red” sign at the intersection of Stickney Point Road and Midnight Pass Road, the seemingly small change provoked outcry from residents about increased traffic woes. And after less than two months in place, FDOT replaced it with an electronic system that only prevents right turns at the intersection if a pedestrian has pressed the crosswalk button.

Neighbors near the proposed Benderson project have cited that incident as evidence that the gateway to south Siesta won’t be able to handle any more intense development.

“Aqualane Estates, Pine Shores and Baywood Colony is a quiet, simple, well maintained and beautiful neighborhood with an increasing number of young families with children,” wrote Shelbourne Lane resident Pamela Downs in a June 22 email to county commissioners. “We are already witnessing dangerous issues with increased traffic flow off of U.S. 41 trying to get to and from Siesta Key.”

Sura Kochman lives part time in her childhood home on Glencoe Avenue east of the proposed development. She spends the other part of the year living in New Jersey, where she was when she heard about the project.

“Everyone you mention it to, their eyes get as big as saucers,” Kochman said.

Kochman and fellow resident Linda Hunter have begun organizing a grassroots neighborhood association in Pine Shores to serve as opposition to the building plans. More than 40 neighbors attended a meeting June 19, Kochman said.

Kochman has protested a traffic study that shows Siesta Promenade will have minimal impact on traffic.

Kochman takes issue with the fact that the study was conducted in the offseason and adjusted to reflect seasonal traffic, and how Benderson has proposed using stormwater vaults for runoff mitigation.

“It’s not that we are against all the development,” Kochman said. “Of course we want it developed, just with less intense of use.”

Time to build
“I’ve been working on the project since 2011 — the absolute bottom of the housing market in Sarasota — and not a week has gone by without us contemplating different project forms,” Mathes said.

The company settled on a “lifestyle center” he describes as filled with quaint restaurants and boutique retail stores. He cited a strong demand in the area as a reason to start work on the development.

“Benderson Development has historically made extended efforts into community outreach with other previous petitions,” said Sarasota County Planning and Development Services Director Tom Polk in a June 23 email to Downs.

Benderson affiliate Buffalo Lodging Associates operates under the Marriott and Hilton hotel flags, and Mathes said the local market is trending toward boutique brands from either of them. The firm will await a market study to determine the best fit for the intersection.

Construction on Siesta Promenade is slated to begin by the spring, according to planning documents.

“We’d of course like to hit a home run for the community by way of the tenants and at the same time anticipate a beautiful and inviting project that will stand in very stark contrast to Old 41 retail,” Mathes said.

Siesta Promenade may be one of the largest developments under consideration or construction on the South Tamiami Trail or Stickney Point corridor, but it’s not the only one.

Taylor Morrison Inc. broke ground on a 77-acre residential development with more than 240 homes called Esplanade by Siesta Key last year, while Benderson Development began revitalization of Pelican Plaza, a shopping center on U.S. 41 roughly three miles south of the intersection of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41.

Greenwich, Conn.,-based BMR Funding LLC proposed an 18-acre, mixed-use project known as Grande Bay last April, in South Sarasota across from Westfield Sarasota Square Mall.

Preliminary plans outline construction of a six-unit, 82,900-square-foot commercial shopping center fronting South Tamiami Trail — including a 45,800-square-foot anchor retail store and two restaurants, according to the application filed with the county.



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