Plans to build a workforce-housing development near the intersection of Lime Avenue and Fruitville Road have been marked by starts and stops, but the team behind the proposal is again considering moving forward.
On Tuesday, the City Commission voted 4-1 to give representatives for Sarasota Station LLC a two-year extension on a land-use change tied to construction of that housing project. In 2016, the commission agreed to change the land-use designation for the 7.88-acre site at 2211 Fruitville Road to facilitate the construction of up to 393 residential units.
That approval required the developer to obtain a building permit by July 2021. After securing an extension Tuesday, Sarasota Station will have until July 2023 to get the city to approve a formal site plan.
Developer Harvey Vengroff, who died in October 2018, spearheaded plans for Sarasota Station in 2015. At several points during the development-review process, Vengroff announced his intent to abandon the project, citing city regulations or fees associated with the proposal — only to return to the plans. Vengroff said he was walking away from the project in January 2018, but he rekindled his interest in September of that same year.
One month later, Vengroff’s death disrupted the Sarasota Station project. Joe Barnette, his former business partner, and Mark Vengroff, his son, said it took more than a year to decide to continue to pursue plans for the development. Although Barnette said the group still wasn’t certain it could feasibly build out the apartment complex, it wanted to at least take the time to advance into the site-planning process.
“We’re now ready to take a look at this project and would love to bring workforce housing into this community,” Mark Vengroff said.
Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch voted against the extension, stating she did not have enough information to determine whether the proposal would provide a public benefit.
The majority of the commissioners said they thought the extension request was reasonable and provided an opportunity for the developer to follow through on a project the city had shown some support for five years earlier.
“Clearly, the public benefit is an increased amount of affordable housing,” Mayor Hagen Brody said.