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Tunnel vision: One Park hopes to overcome perceptions of breezeway

The development will go before the Planning Board on March 8 to defend its design of a structure to bridge two blocks of The Quay.

The breezeway over Quay Commons in the proposed One Park development. A transfer of air rights to the developer is being challenged in 12th Judicial Circuit Court.
The breezeway over Quay Commons in the proposed One Park development. A transfer of air rights to the developer is being challenged in 12th Judicial Circuit Court.
Courtesy rendering
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Three weeks after developers of One Park received an extension to close on blocks 1 and 9 in The Quay, the development will come before the Planning Board on March 8 — a critical step for One Park to be built as proposed.  

At issue — both with the city and in the courtroom — is One Park’s design that would bridge blocks 1 and 9 above an 80-foot wide, 22-foot high “breezeway” above Quay Commons, the internal private street that provides primary access into The Quay from Boulevard of the Arts. 

Owners in the Ritz-Carlton Residences, otherwise known as Block 6, have challenged that the air rights above Quay Commons belong to the master association of the 14-acre mixed-use development, and therefore cannot be conveyed to One Park along with the sale of blocks 1 and 9. 

Oral arguments in Block 6 versus GreenPointe Developers and Quay 1 & 9 LLC are set for mid-May. GreenePointe is developing The Quay under the entity Quay Venture. Quay 1 & 9 is comprised of developers Property Markets Group of Miami and JEBCO Ventures of Sarasota.

The city is not party to the suit as the argument is over air rights above a private street. City approval is required, though, to amend the development plan that permits it to occur.

Developers of One Park are attempting to allay the fears over what the opponents to the project are characterizing as a potentially dangerous “tunnel” at the primary point of ingress and egress both by foot and vehicle.

“We understand those who don’t want our building built. We understand why they’re saying what they’re saying,” said Property Markets Group Managing Partner Dan Kaplan, contrasting the One Park breeze to one at the base of Bayso. That one stands over Bayso's private driveway running through the center of the building at the other end of Quay Commons. 

“The breezeway is 80 feet wide and close to 22 feet tall," he said. "Relative to the Bayso, that’s more or less three times the size and pretty close to 50% taller, so from a design standpoint, what we're proposing is very, very different. The area will also be activated.”

Activated, as Jebco Ventures Managing Partner Kim Githler describes, possibly with — among other things — a restaurant by Michael Klauber of Michael’s On East fame. Klauber is one of the future residents of One Park. Gitchler said the parties are currently in discussions about that prospect.

“He wants to open a restaurant there, so it'll be very activated with local retail and restaurants in that area,” Githler said. “There will be trees and places to sit down and tables, and we will have bicycles and wide sidewalks on either side.”

Growing opposition

Residents of Block 6, the only currently occupied building in The Quay, have frequently spoken before the City Commission over what they see as an illegal transfer of the air rights and in opposition to the size and scope of the building that would stand at the entrance of The Quay. They say the breezeway will adversely impact their right of enjoyment, create safety hazards, block views and more. 

Block 6 has recently been joined in its lobbying efforts by future buyers of condominiums in Bayso, which is in the latter stage of construction on the southeastern corner of the property. Entries on a community social media page for future Bayso residents encourage a letter-writing campaign to the Planning Board and City Commission. Others messages show some buyers have requested Bayso developer Kolter Urban exercise its voting power in the master association to oppose One Park. 

A rendering of One Park, which is planned to span across Quay Commons on blocks 1 and 9 in The Quay.
Courtesy rendering

And on Feb. 24, a letter was sent to the Planning Board from five former members of that body — Robert Lindsay, Eileen Normile, David Morriss, Mortan Siegel and Patrick Gannon — all of them involved in crafting the development agreement for The Quay, in objection to amending the agreement to accommodate One Park.

“Before you now is an amendment that would undermine the agreed upon development plans and the purposes which underscored those plans,” they wrote. “As DRC staff has expressed, the One Park development plan is 'inconsistent' with the 2016 (general development plan) and contrary to the sworn testimony and representations made by Quay Venture at that time. No provision was made, nor ever approved, allowing for a condominium to span between two blocks over Quay Commons.”

The letter continues: “Quay Commons — the main and only traffic and pedestrian artery in the community — was represented by Quay Venture in sworn testimony over multiple hearings before the Planning Board and the City Commission to be a pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined boulevard, open to the sky, which would seamlessly connect U.S. 41 and Bay Park through the Quay.”

Parallel tracks

Before the One Park site plan can be presented to the planning board, the general development plan amendment must first be approved. The Planning Board will make its recommendation to the City Commission on March 8, after which a legislative hearing will be placed on the commission’s agenda. The project already has final sign-off by the Development Review Committee, pending the amendment to the development agreement.

If commissioners approve the amendment, a quasi-judicial hearing for the One Park site plan will be placed on the Planning Board’s agenda. Its decision may be appealed by either the developer or Block 6 to the City Commission, depending on the outcome. If there is an appeal of the Planning Board’s decision on the site plan, it can be appealed as a matter of right. All of that could be wrapped up by June.

Running concurrent to city considerations will be the legal battle over the conveyance of the air rights. The 12th Circuit Court will hear oral arguments over whether Quay Venture is obligated to turn over the space above Quay Commons, as part of the master association’s common property, or if Quay 1 and 9 can build over the street. 

A judgment is expected to be rendered by mid-June.

The closing date extension has a flexible sunset, depending on when the judicial decision is rendered. It gives One Park an outside date at the end of September, or within 30 days of the judge’s ruling.

And if the court sides with Block 6?

“We’ll figure something out,” Kaplan said.

High stakes

With the extension agreement, legal complaints filed by both One Park and Quay Venture against each other on Jan. 31 — which Kaplan described as necessary for each to protect their own interests — are withdrawn. 

The One Park developers have much at stake in both the civic and legal processes. They have pre-sold 65% of the 123 luxury condominiums based on the current design plan, which includes 18 floors with a 63,000-square-foot amenity deck on the fourth floor.

Opponents, meanwhile, say their stakes are high as well, concerned that One Park being built as proposed will be a detriment to their lifestyle and their considerably elevated property values with purchase prices of their homes in the millions. 

One Bayso future resident posted on the community Facebook page her worries about safety, noise and aesthetics of the “tunnel.” 

“As a woman, walking through a tunnel is a very scary thing,” she wrote. “I would personally avoid going into the tunnel for fear of rape or attack. We have unfortunately been culturally conditioned to worry about this, and I’m sure other women might feel the same. The alternative route (walking along Tamiami Trail) isn’t much better.”

A more common objection is that One Park will be a monolith inconsistent with the rest of the buildings within The Quay.

“Folks are already accusing us of building some sort of a monolithic structure, almost imagining something like in Eastern Europe in the 1940s,” Kaplan said. “We’re really building a beautiful glass tower. … We’re not a developer that skimps on design and architecture. We're looking to work with the city. We're looking to work with the residents. We're looking to make Sarasota a real home for us. Building something that's not attractive, that doesn't add value to the rest of the city just doesn't make sense to us.”

Whether it makes sense to city leaders and the court will be determined by summer.



Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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