The historic Mira Mar building on Palm Avenue has been sold to a local developer who plans to demolish the existing building and build 70 condominiums as well as retail space there.
The Sarasota developer, Seaward Development, is promising to build a new structure that pays homage to the original look and design of the property, originally built in 1922. Seaward is scheduled to go before the city’s Historic Preservation Board on Tuesday, June 15 to get permission to tear down the existing structure.
Although the Mira Mar, at 49 S. Palm Ave., is considered historic to many in the community, it is not the original building that sits on the site and so many renovations and changes have been made in the past century that its application to the National Register for Historic Places was rejected in 1983.
“Unfortunately, Mira Mar has now passed its useful life,” Mark Kauffman, one of the current owners, says in a statement. “A confluence of situations have led to the professional realization that repairs, and restorations are not a fiscal option for the permanent sustained future of the Mira Mar.”
The sale price has not been disclosed, and Seaward is in the due diligence stage of the agreement. The hope is to close in the third quarter.
The plan is to keep the zoning, which allows for a 10-story building, as is. Seaward will build two floors of retail facing Palm Avenue and a second residential building behind the commercial space that pays “homage and to the original look and design of the property when the Mira Mar Hotel stood tall in the early 1900s.”
There is no timetable yet for when the work will begin.
Seaward is not new to the Mira Mar. Its offices have been in the building for five years. Patrick DiPinto, Seaward’s managing partner, says the company considered remodeling the property, but because of “the declining state of the building, that is not feasible, which is why we are asking for a demolition permit.”
According to Seaward, engineers say that despite the work done to keep the property intact, the 100-year-old wood frame is badly damaged, including drastically undersized foundations, corroded structural wood wall studs, extensive insect damage and wood rot. This, the developer says, calls “into question the load path for gravity loads and walls observed with no lateral resistance to wind loads.”
The buildings assessed value is about $2 million but it needs more than $22 million in repairs, according to Seaward.
Kauffman, one of the more prolific property owners in Sarasota who’s owned the building since about 1989, understands the high cost of maintaining the property and say it’s no longer fiscally prudent to keep pouring money into it. What it needs, he says, is to be demolished and for "a new replica" to be built.
That is what Seaward offered and why he sold to them without putting the property on the market.
As for what happens to the Mira Mar if the Historic Preservation Board does not grant permission to bring the building down, Kauffman is very straightforward about what will happen next.
“If demo is not allowed,” he says, "we will allow leases to run out over next two years then close the building and fence it off, and allow it to decay as we cannot afford the repairs anymore.”