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'Lots' of development planned at SRQ

The Sarasota-Manatee International Airport has begun working with the city to address its parking problems and plans to develop a commercial node along University Parkway.

Short-term plans at SRQ will consolidate car rental facilities along  Rental Car Road onto Block 7, freeing up land along Uiversity Prakway for additional parking lots and commercial development.
Short-term plans at SRQ will consolidate car rental facilities along Rental Car Road onto Block 7, freeing up land along Uiversity Prakway for additional parking lots and commercial development.
Courtesy rendering
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As construction continues at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport on new boarding gates, the airport is planning for further growth outside of the passenger terminal with a focus on resolving its parking shortage.

Airport representatives are working with the Sarasota Development Review Committee to rescind its Development of Regional Impact classification and to replace it with a general development plan in order to develop parcels on airport property that lie within the city limits. The airport is seeking a development agreement with the city on 88.84 acres at the southwest corner of its property.

The airport is in three governmental jurisdictions — the city and Sarasota and Manatee counties.

By Florida statute, a development of regional impact is  "any development which, because of its character, magnitude or location, would have a substantial effect upon the health, safety or welfare of citizens of more than one county.” 

Lakewood Ranch, for example, was established as a Development of Regional Impact. In 2015 and 2016, state legislation eliminated the DRI review process, and amendments to development orders for existing DRIs are now considered by the local governments in place of state and regional review.

The airport went under DRI designation in the 1980s.

Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport plans to use largely undeveloped Block 7 to consolidate rental car cleaning and staging activities to open more land to parking lots and commercial development.
Photo by Andrew Warfield

On Wednesday, SRQ took the first step in terminating its DRI pertaining to parcels within the city. In the short term, the airport wants to consolidate car rental facilities — currently scattered along Rental Car Road, which runs parallel to University Parkway between a string of hotels and the airport terminal, to a shared facility near the shaded parking lot. 

That will allow a new cellphone lot to be developed, which will include restroom facilities. The current cellphone lot is not paved, and those waiting to pick up arriving passengers often park along the shoulder of Rental Car Road.

Additionally a temporary remote parking lot will be developed at the northeast corner of University Parkway and Old Bradenton Road.

Those are projects SRQ General Counsel Dan Bailey said will begin as soon as the airport secures approvals from the city.

That’s the near-term plan.

On the long-range view, consolidating the car rental facilities will open opportunities to develop prime commercial property along University Parkway, all of which will comprise the SRQ Gateway Centre. 

That will eventually be developed by various tenants under long-term leases. Uses may include fast food, a high-turnover full service restaurant; a convenience store with gas and a car wash; general retail, a hotel, self-storage, general office space and others. All of that will provide additional revenue for the airport.

“We’ve tried to do the commercial along University, but we’ve been kind of overcome by all the traffic we get at the airport,” Bailey said. “Now we have a greater need for these parking facilities, so we're having to co-mingle what we were trying to do with that commercial development being superseded by the need to get plans moving for these parking lots, even though some of them are going be temporary.”

Vehicles regularly wait on the shoulder of Rental Car Road to pick up passengers rather than at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport's designated cell phone lot.
Photo by Andrew Warfield

On an interim basis, the airport will rely on temporary parking space until a more permanent solution is devised.

With no room to expand beyond its current footprint, SRQ’s ultimate parking solution is likely a vertical structure. Bailey said if and when that is built, it would be at the current short-term lot, which will force the airport at that time to find another interim parking solution.

"It's like a Rubik's Cube," Bailey said.

Parking is an ongoing challenge at SRQ, which will only be exacerbated with the additional capacity of five ground-based boarding gates  under development. The airport  has 13 gates in Concourse B. Concourse A will eventually be built, opening up travel capacity for even more passengers and their cars. During busy travel periods such as the holidays, cars are parked in a fenced-in area on the tarmac.

Some 3.87 million passengers traveled through the airport in 2022, a 21.6% increase over the record-setting 3.16 million passengers in 2021. The airport expects serve 7 million passengers per year in 2025 when the ground-based boarding facility is in operation.



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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