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WELCOME BACK: Rosemary District Zoning

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  • | 5:00 a.m. November 13, 2014
  • Sarasota
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WHAT: Ongoing efforts to revitalize the Rosemary District kicked up a gear this year, with a number of projects aimed at growing the neighborhood getting underway.

WHO’S INVOLVED: The city of Sarasota; the Sarasota Design District; Rosalyne Holdings LLC; Rosemary Square LLC

WHAT’S THE LATEST: In October, the city approved new regulations that allow for higher-density residential projects in the Rosemary District, clearing the way for an approximately 450-unit apartment complex on Cocoanut Avenue.

Earnest attempts to redevelop and activate the Rosemary District date back at least to the mid-2000s, a point at which many in the area believe the neighborhood was poised for a renaissance.

Nearly a decade later, the neighborhood still has ample room to grow. The fight to achieve that growth has not been abandoned, however — this summer alone, several steps were taken to help encourage growth and activity in the area.

Perhaps the most significant step was the city’s approval of the Rosemary Residential Overlay District. Originally proposed last December, the R-ROD allows for higher density developments throughout the neighborhood.

Under the overlay district, the density limit for individual developments triples, from 25 units per acre to 75 units per acre. The average overall density of the neighborhood is still capped at 25 units per acre, a move designed at preserving the existing character of the area, but the density limit is in place to encourage development.

At a June workshop to get resident feedback, Karin Murphy, the director of the city’s Urban Design Studio, said the overlay district wasn’t a perfect solution for the area’s woes. Still, the project that accompanied the original R-ROD proposal — a 450-unit, 6.2-acre apartment complex along Cocoanut Avenue from Rosalyne Holdings LLC — was worth locking into place, she said.

Although the R-ROD might not be a permanent solution, the city unanimously amended its comprehensive plan in October to install the overlay district and new density regulations.

In August, businesses in the Rosemary District announced the formation of the Sarasota Design District, an attempt to establish a new brand for an area associated with blight and crime issues.

The Sarasota Design District is an association comprising more than 20 businesses. The idea, members say, is to establish the area as a one-stop destination for people interested in home design — from architecture to furnishing, and everything in between. The businesses involved include interior designers, home electronics stores, cabinetmakers and real estate developers, all of whom are concentrated within a small enclave of the Rosemary District.

The Sarasota Design District is more than just an opportunity for like-minded businesses to use each other as a signal boost. Members hope to continue the revival of the Rosemary District.

Much of the Rosemary District’s negative reputation is overstated, members of the Design District said. The biggest problem, rather, is just the perception that a big problem exists.

By creating a new image for people to associate with the neighborhood, members hope to eliminate those preconceptions.

Another long-awaited push to revitalize the area came closer to fruition in June, as the city reached a purchase-and-sale agreement for a “catalyst project” along Boulevard of the Arts.

City-owned land in the 1400 block of Boulevard of the Arts and Fifth Street is now the planned home of Rosemary Square, a mixed-use project focusing on “bringing arts to Boulevard of the Arts.”

The $20 million proposed project includes residential, retail, fine arts and office space, including a boutique theater and public town square. Developer Mark Kauffman wants to bring a significant project to the neighborhood to jump-start development.

“This is really a risky venture,” Kauffman said. “This is not Palm Avenue. This is not downtown. We’re looking to be the seminal project here to stimulate the entire district.”



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