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Controversial condo tower receives partial DRC sign-off

The luxurious Obsidian still faces administrative decisions on street-level adjustments while the Lofts on Lemon II public housing project faces scrutiny.

The upper floors of Obsidian would offer bayfront views to the east and downtown views to the west.
The upper floors of Obsidian would offer bayfront views to the east and downtown views to the west.
Courtesy image
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With most technical comments addressed, the city’s Development Review Committee on May 15 granted partial sign-off for the controversial Obsidian condominium tower, also known as 1260 North Palm Residences.

The project has met with substantial resistance from neighboring downtown residences, particularly those in the adjacent Bay Plaza, over the height of the building proposed for the quarter-acre parcel. They’ve accused developer Matt Kihnke of manipulating interstitial space to raise the building to 342 feet, the height reduced by 15 feet after an appeal for adjustments was rejected by the Planning Board on Jan. 10

The height wasn’t among the adjustments sought by appeal to the Planning Board after being denied by Director of Planning Services Lucia Panica. Those were regarding reductions of habitable space on the first and second floors and parallel façade coverage at the street level. 

Rather than appealing to the Sarasota City Commission, Hoyt Architects went back to the drawing board to make some changes before bringing the project back before the DRC.

Obsidian would be built on this site next to Bay Plaza. The single-story building with seven storefronts will be demolished.
Photo by Andrew Warfield

In addition to reducing the height, Hoyt redesigned the lower levels to come close to code requirements but requested adjustments still include:

  • Parallel façade coverage: A reduction of 26.53 feet, or 19.9%, along Palm Avenue to provide FPL transformer access, a driveway, and utility/backflow access.
  • Habitable space: A reduction of 5.91 linear feet or 5.5%, to provide pedestrian access to the parking garage directly from a frontage line as required. Also, a reduction of 10.82 linear feet, or 7.4%, of habitable space on the second floor to provide a fire command center in a location approved by the fire marshal.
  • Retail frontage. A reduction of 9.91 feet, or 9.3%, of retail, service or office frontage on the ground level to accommodate required stairs to the second level and required garage entrance. The existing retail space on the site is 6,350 square feet, according to the Sarasota County Property Appraiser. The plan will provide a total of 6,227 square feet of retail space, 97% of the existing retail space.

When announcing the partial sign-off, Development Review Planner Amy Bavin made clear to observers in the audience and those viewing online that doesn’t mean the project is closer to approval. 

“I just want to note that that is not approving the site plan,” Bavin said. “The zoning comments still need to be addressed and the other conditions that were discussed by the zoning comments, such as the adjustments, need to be approved. That will all need to be addressed prior to site plan approval.”

George Scarf of Hoyt Architects also took the opportunity to offer some clarity of his own.

“One thing I do want to clarify that's been out in the public quite often is this project has not been renamed,” Scarf said. “The 2023 application was 1260 North Palm Residences, and it's still 1260 North Palm Residences. For the record, we want to make sure everybody understands it has not been renamed.”

Translated, that means the application name is the address of the development, but the project remains called Obsidian Residences.

More work to do

Three other projects did not receive partial sign-off and require resubmittals to the DRC: Sarasota Housing Authority’s Lofts on Lemon II, Property Market Group’s One Park West and GL Real Estate’s Artists Court. 

Lofts on Lemon II will add 100 rental units, all priced at affordable/attainable levels at  80% of area median income or lower in an eight-story building, which includes three levels of parking. Combined with the first phase, the project will total 228 affordable housing units.

At the outset, Chris Gallagher of Hoyt Architects made a plea that because of the complexities of funding application deadlines for public housing he hoped for at least a partial sign-off on Wednesday. However, because Bavin was filling in for the project’s case planner, Noah Fossick, who was attending an out-of-town conference, she said she had no authority to grant his request.

“I did hear your plea Mr. Gallagher, however I'm not qualified to offer partial sign-off on this,” Bavin said. “I was directed to request that you return to the DRC. If you'd like an additional meeting set up to assure that you would be able to get partial sign-off at the next meeting I would encourage you to do that.”

Artists Court will be a 10-story, 242-unit market-rate rental development that includes 26 attainable housing units located at South Washington Boulevard and Adams Lane. The development is taking advantage of the downtown attainable housing bonus density program.

A rendering of One Park West (center) as viewed from Quay Commons looking north.
Courtesy image

One Park West represents the final block of The Quay either not approved, under development or completed. Located on Block 9, it is across Quay Commons from its sister development, One Park, also being built by Property Markets Group. It is planned as an 18-story, 75-unit condominium tower that will offer entry into The Quay at a price range between $1.1 million and $3 million.

One Park is also still undergoing the administrative review process. All developments in The Quay must be approved by the Planning Board but do not go before the City Commission.



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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