Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Rosemary District property owners discuss public investment

With more than 1,000 residential units under construction in the Rosemary District, stakeholders are discussing how to fund the evolving needs of the neighborhood.

  • By
  • | 6:00 a.m. March 3, 2016
Ian Black is a leading voice calling for public improvements to the Rosemary District.
Ian Black is a leading voice calling for public improvements to the Rosemary District.
  • Sarasota
  • News
  • Share

Real estate broker Ian Black has been invested in the Rosemary District for more than two decades, and the most pressing need for the neighborhood has always been the same: security.

A wave of new residential projects is beginning to change the dynamics in the area, though. Among property owners in the Rosemary District, there’s a sense the long-awaited revitalization of the north-of-downtown neighborhood is finally happening.

As a result, Black said, the needs of the neighborhood are evolving. Instead of prioritizing surveillance, property owners are airing new issues. How will the area meet the increasing parking needs? Will the influx of new full-time residents — perhaps more than 1,000 within five years — lead to a demand for park space? 

To Black, these challenges provide an exciting opportunity to address the future needs of the district, rather than trying to catch up on long-standing issues.

“We were always a reactionary group that was always coming from behind, working on the problems that already existed in the neighborhood,” Black said. “Now, we have needs that were not appropriate maybe even a year ago based on the development.”

Black has served as chairman of the Downtown Improvement District Ad-Hoc Expansion Committee. The self-taxing district was considering extending its boundaries into the Rosemary District, but it’s now unlikely the DID will help fund the needs of the neighborhood.

“We have the basic fundamentals of putting together some sort of bird’s eye view of what it should look like.” — Ian Black

Still, it has energized the conversation about how to improve the Rosemary District. Any new funding body formed to address the needs of the neighborhood is likely to stand on its own, a response to the input gathered from Rosemary District stakeholders over the past five months.

Howard Davis, who owns two properties in the area, said it’s easy for new initiatives to languish in the planning process for several years. With seven residential projects either under construction or being planned, he believes it’s appropriate for a public investment in the Rosemary District to start now.

Still, that’s not to say improvements could be made right away if funding were available. For property owners to commit to any investment, he thinks there first needs to be a clearly defined goal.

“I think it’s important, first of all, to have a strategy for the area, and then underneath that, a strategy for a series of appropriate investments,” Davis said. “I don’t think either exists.”

Black drew parallels to the city’s SemCon conferences held over the past decade. Those events brought together downtown leaders to discuss future projects, guiding the Downtown Improvement District’s discussions.

“I think it’s important to have a strategy for the area and a strategy for a series of appropriate investments. I don't think either exists.” — Howard Davis

Already, there’s been work to define the image of the neighborhood. The boundaries are clearly defined by the Rosemary Residential Overlay District, which allows developers to build higher-density housing projects there. The 2014 formation of the Sarasota Design District, a network of home-design businesses in the neighborhood, has contributed to an overall identity for the area.

“We have the basic fundamentals of putting together some sort of bird’s eye view of what it should look like,” Black said. “Then, you can get into an in-depth analysis of how we accomplish those goals.”

A combination of less expensive rental residential units and multiple high-profile nightlife establishments suggests a younger, more vibrant character for the neighborhood going forward.

However, the Sarasota Design District offers a different take on the neighborhood’s image. A new mixed-use project on Boulevard of the Arts is touting its emphasis on the arts, bringing another character-defining element into the mix. 

This is why Davis believes it’s important to get a definitive answer to an important question: How do property owners see the Rosemary District growing?

“How is it different from downtown?” Davis said. “What are the special characteristics? What are we trying to promote? We have to articulate that. I don’t think it’s sufficient to say, ‘Well, we all know what it’s trying to be.’”


Related Articles