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Affordable home options considered for north end of county

Six proposals were submitted for 2501 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way that mix affordable housing with a variety of other services, including grocery stores, schools and a minor league soccer stadium.

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  • | 5:15 p.m. June 24, 2021
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A parcel of land in north Sarasota has come under some controversy as county leaders consider affordable housing proposals for the property while residents say the community needs a different use. 

Land at 2501 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way originally was slated to become a mixed-use community after a Miami-based company submitted an unsolicited proposal to the county. 

However, after commissioners drew concerns with the low proposal offer of $2.5 million and the fact that the company wasn’t local, they opted to create a competitive public process to allow other proposals for the site. 

The county in April began accepting bids for the project and are now considering six for the 114-acre site, which is located across from Emma E. Booker Elementary School. 

Under the guidelines laid out by the county, the minimum bid for the parcel is $2.5 million. The county paid $2.2 million for the land in 2013. 

Additionally, any proposal must have no fewer than 150 units, or 25% of the total dwelling units — whichever is greater — set aside for affordable housing for a minimum of 10 years. 

All affordable units shall be sold or rented for households at or below 80% of the area median income, or $43,250 for a single person or $61,750 for a family of four. No less than half the affordable units shall be sold or rented for households at or below 60% AMI, or $32,460 for a single person or $46,320 for a family of four. 

Commissioners say they also will give consideration to proposals that include mixed-uses that will serve the area, such as a grocery store or pharmacy. 

However, community members who live in the area say they should have a say in what goes on the parcel, because it will affect them the most. 

Desoto Acres Neighborhood Association members say they were shocked to hear the county was opening bids for the site because since 2016 county leaders said the property was being explored as a future sports complex site, which residents would like in the area. 

The closest sports complex is the Youth Athletic Complex, 1.5 miles from the parcel, which contains a BMX track and four baseball fields. 

 “We must go on record objecting in the strongest possible terms to this potential sale and development,” Desoto resident Martha Hafner wrote to the county commission. “The residents of north Sarasota County have been told multiple times on an ongoing basis this land would be made a park, not sold for private investment.” 

Through a records request, The Observer obtained copies of the proposals being considered. Here’s a look at what could be built on the parcel. 


Blue Sky Communities 

Blue Sky Communities and local nonprofit Community Assisted & Supported Living, which previously submitted a bid for property at 4644 N. Tamiami Trail, offered the county $4 million for the parcel. 

The proposal details a multi-use development with 96 affordable housing units for families, 90 for ages 55 and up and 90 for individuals with special needs. Another 300 units will be set aside for market-rate housing. 

Additionally, Blue Sky would partner with organizations such as Safe Children Coalition and CenterPlace Health to bring foster care services and a 30,000-square-foot medical building to the area. About 30 units will be set aside for Safe Children Coalition to own and operate for youth transitioning from foster care. 

Another 60,000 square feet will be set aside for a grocery store, though no vendors have yet expressed interest. The development team also is working to create a recreational and after school activity center. 

The project would be built in phases with affordable units financed with tax credits through Florida Housing Finance Corporation. 


Gracewater Community Development

Gracewater, which owns the former Rolling Green Golf Course, offered the county $4.4 million. 

Documents show Gracewater is proposing 156 affordable housing units in the form of coach homes on the parcel, half of which will be at 60% AMI and another half at 80% AMI. Another 100 coach homes would be offered at market value. 

The project seeks to create income diversity rather than just affordable housing units within the development. 

“It is our belief and experience that without income diversity, the residents of this neighborhood will continue to experience lower quality public schools, lack of essential businesses and the systemic poverty that comes from flat or decreasing property values,” the document notes.

To achieve that goal, three other types of housing will be offered: 134 workforce townhomes, 54 paired villas for those in the upper range of the workforce market and 176 market-value single family homes. The single family homes will have 3-4 bedrooms and 2-3 bathrooms, ranging in size from 1,700 to 2,800 square feet. 

The proposal does not include any commercial zoning. The document states that although the county can zone for it, it doesn’t mean a grocery store would be sustainable in the area. 


Habitat for Humanity Sarasota

Habitat for Humanity has delivered more than 350 affordable homes to Sarasota families in the bast 35 years. It now hopes to double that by building a community with four residential product types ranging from single-family ownership to multifamily rentals. 

The proposal shows the development will include a minimum of 350 homes for sale or rent. At least 175 will be offered at prices at or below 80% AMI. Half of those will be offered at or below 60% AMI. 

The organization also will partner with Benderson Development Company to create a 30-acre employment center on a portion of the site. 

The center will be similar to Benderson’s SRQ Commerce Park and Florida International Tradeport in Manatee County. It will be occupied by a range of employers and “create hundreds of jobs at varying skill and salary levels,” the document notes. 

Habitat for Humanity offered the county $3.5 million for the site. 


Horizon Acres Development, LLC

Horizon Acres, which offered $3 million for the property, plans to have 100% of its proposed units be designated affordable housing with a rent to own model. 

The proposal includes approximately 578 affordable housing units, a multigenerational educational campus and retail components based on community feedback. 

The 578 unites will be built in numerous phases and will comprise 300 two-story walk up apartments, 100 one-story duplexes, 128 one-story quads and 50 single-family homes. 

The multigenerational educational campus will be anchored by Dreamers Academy and will be developed by a partnership between Highmark School Development and the principals of Dreamers Academy. 

The multigenerational campus will serve as a hub for early childhood services, counseling and mental health services, a family resource center, and college and career programming, among other things. 

The location will allow synergy with Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County and the adjoining baseball fields. The plan also includes the possibility of a neighborhood park. 


Kingspointe Sarasota

Kingspoint is proposing a total of 620 housing units. At least 155 of those would be reserved for low-income households. 

The project would consist of 100 tiny homes, 416 townhomes with a garage and 104 townhomes without a garage. The proposal shows that 78 residences will be reserved for households at or below 60% AMI and another 78 for households at or below 80% AMI. 

Aside from housing, the proposal also highlights an optional retail component that would help reduce the area’s food desert, should residents desire it. It offered the county $2.75 million for the project. 


North Sarasota Redevelopment Partners

North Sarasota Redevelopment Partners hopes to fill voids in north Sarasota with a four-pronged development approach. 

The proposal highlights affordable workforce housing for those looking to rent and to own, market rate rental housing, banking and entertainment. 

Phase one of the project would include 300 market rate and 150 workforce housing units. The goal is to develop a homeownership project to transition families through affordable housing to homeowners. 

The entertainment portion will be centered around a multi-use sports complex with the hopes of attracting a minor league soccer club called the Sarasota Metropolis Football Club. The team’s current stadium at IMG Academy does not meet United Soccer League 1 regulations. 


The facility would then be used for live music, local sports, summer camps and other outdoor activities. 

A food plaza with a mix of permanent restaurants and food trucks also is planned. Each vendor will have a rotating menu to keep customers coming back. The food plaza also will have a bazar for local artisans and farmers to sell their products. 

Financial Access Federal Credit Union will establish a banking and financial literacy facility on the site. The facility would encompass 6,000 square feet and would offer a full-service credit union and free financial literacy training. 

The proposal includes two purchase points, one at $2.5 million and another at $3.5 million depending on how many pieces of the proposal the county greenlights. 






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