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Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport plots commercial projects

Restaurants, convenience stores, hotels, office space and more could be coming to airport-owned land along University Parkway.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. July 29, 2021
By adding commercial tenants, Rick Piccolo said the airport would be less reliant on air traffic for financial stability. File photo.
By adding commercial tenants, Rick Piccolo said the airport would be less reliant on air traffic for financial stability. File photo.
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Over the next decade, the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority intends to add more commercial, hotel and office space to the property it owns in north Sarasota, particularly on land along University Parkway.

On July 21, representatives for the airport authority appeared before the city’s Development Review Committee for a preliminary meeting about plans for the future of 96.5 acres that are part of Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. In documents filed with the city, the airport said it will be submitting a series of development applications to facilitate changes on the site.

As part of those applications, the airport will ask the city to rezone 24.5 acres from government zoning to the intensive commercial district, which would accommodate the development of commercial properties for long-term leaseholders. To make room for future development on land dubbed the SRQ Gateway Centre, the airport intends to eliminate existing rental car space along University Parkway and concentrate those uses in a centralized facility to the north.

Rick Piccolo, the airport’s president and CEO, said the changes are intended to better serve those who fly in and out of SRQ. The documents submitted to the city list potential uses at the SRQ Gateway Centre: fast-food and fast-casual dining, convenience stores and gas stations, general retail, a hotel, a drive-in bank, self-storage facilities and general office space.

Piccolo said the airport believes there’s a demand for more services that complement the airport — for example, a restaurant for departing ticket holders who want a quick meal before their flight or a convenience store for arriving guests to grab snacks before heading to their hotel. He said the planned development of the property between Airport Road and Old Bradenton Road would also mirror existing commercial development on University.

“We want to turn it into something more attractive, both for the airport and for the community,” Piccolo said.

Another development proposal from the airport will seek to increase the maximum permitted number of hotel rooms on the entire site from 300 to 360. The airport plans to add a 120-room hotel with a 4,500-square-foot restaurant north of the Hampton Inn near the primary point of access to the airport.

The development plans are part of the airport’s ongoing emphasis on financial sustainability, creating a new line of income that’s not reliant solely on a high volume of passengers passing through the facility. Piccolo noted the airport does not have taxing power, so SRQ officials are constantly striving for opportunities to ensure a healthy, long-term fiscal outlook.

“We try to diversify our revenue sources, so when air traffic is up, things are good, and when air traffic is down, we aren’t entirely dependent on it,” Piccolo said. “Instead of getting pneumonia, we get a cold.”

To accommodate the build-out of the SRQ Gateway Centre, the airport does not intend to submit a fixed site plan to the city. At the Development Review Committee meeting, attorney Dan Bailey said the airport will request approval of a general development plan that would outline the maximum build-out of the property without specifying how those uses would be distributed across the site.

Under that development model, individual tenants would have to file site plans that must go through the city’s public hearing process before construction can begin.

“We don’t know who’s going to go there,” Bailey said. “It’s going to be driven by the market, and we want to have some dexterity in terms of being able to accommodate whatever the market demands.”

​​Bailey said the airport’s development rights under the proposed agreement would be in place for a maximum of 10 years. Piccolo said the airport doesn’t have a firm timeline for when it wants to build out the property, though he hopes the consolidated rental car center will be complete by early 2024. Airport officials intend to take a flexible approach to planned growth outside of the confines of the terminal.

“We can move at a fast pace or a slow pace depending on what demand is out there,” Piccolo said.


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