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Business Observer Friday, Mar. 4, 2022 7 months ago

Grocer likely coming to downtown Sarasota development

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One Main Plaza aims to bring grocer and new energy to one portion of downtown Sarasota.
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

As construction crews continue to work on the massive redevelopment that is One Main Plaza in downtown Sarasota, there is a push to fill the nearly 55,000 square feet of retail space that will likely be the face of the long-awaited center.

Leading that push is Kevin Robbins of the commercial real estate firm Harry E. Robbins & Associates. Robbins says negotiations are underway — and an agreement may be imminent — with a grocery store chain for one of the biggest spaces in the development. The unnamed grocery store will be just one of the dozens of retailers or restaurants that will line the bottom portion of the two-tower redevelopment  expected to bring a new energy and vibe to downtown Sarasota.

Just how much One Main will change the eastern edge of downtown is evident in recently released renderings showing what the development will look like when complete in about two years.

The images show a mixed-use project across from the Sarasota City Center that takes up half a block in the heart of the commercial district, featuring sidewalks packed with shoppers and restaurants that line Main Street and Links Avenue.

“As I’ve always said, it’s going to be a catalyst for the area and you’re going to see that area explode,” says Robbins. “Five years from now, you won’t recognize it from the energy and the vibrancy.”

It would be easy to discount Robbins’ sentiment as just talk from the person charged with selling space, but he is a Sarasota native and remembers when that property was one of the premiere destinations in the city. Some 20 to 30 years ago, he says, that center was “the place to go.” There was a Maas Brothers department store, there were restaurants, “it was really lively and active.”

By the time Robbins, 36, was in middle and high school the movie theatre had replaced Mass Brothers. Then it became the go-to place people went for movies and a meal, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The 259,000-square-foot Main Plaza ultimately struggled to keep tenants, though, with several, including Applebee’s, Ker’s Wing House and a YMCA branch closing in recent years. The cavernous inside of Main Plaza on many days sat nearly empty.

This new development, in the works for several years, is seen as a way to recapture that old magic.

One Main, when complete, will include two 10-story towers with 418 luxury apartments and the 55,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor. According to the plans, about 376 feet of One Main will face Main Street where the sidewalk will be widened to 20 feet. About 630 feet of storefront will face Links Avenue. The development will also have frontage on Fruitville Road.

Five years from now, you won’t recognize it from the energy and the vibrancy. Kevin Robbins

One Main will also have about 1,200 parking spaces, which will help make it a destination says Robbins.

Belpointe REIT Inc. of Greenwich, Connecticut is building the project. It began construction on One Main in October 2020.

The private equity company was formed in 2019 to develop properties in federally designated Opportunity Zones. It acquired 8.6 acres of the roughly 10-acre Main Plaza site in December 2019 — its first acquisition since its creation and initial public offering earlier that year — for $20 million.

Robbins says the western end of downtown and Main Street have done a good job over the years, with new condo towers mixed in with coffee shops, restaurants and assorted retailers. But the eastern end has mostly been the business district, with people there during the day working and going to lunch. What it’s been missing is residences.

“When you look at the other side of Main Street, it truly is live, work, play,” he says. “They have residences there, they have some office towers and they have a lot of good restaurants and things you can go and experience. The one component this side of town has been missing is a strong synergy and just really the density of residential units.”

“So,” he adds, “it will serve as a catalyst.”

His job now is to make sure the retailers, restaurants or others come and help fill the space to create the vibrancy.

The 55,000 square feet will be divided pretty evenly between the two towers. For the first building, which faces Main Street, he and the developers are looking to find smaller inline stores or restaurants. The expectation is those spaces will be taken by tenants using around 1,500 square feet, about the average on Main Street.

But, he says, they will be able to combine spaces. “Probably one of the unique things is…that we have a little bit larger block of space that we’re able to give, so we can do some unique things like a food hall or something that needs a little bit more depth or little bit more size to it.”

Online marketing materials shows lease rates of between $35 and $45 per year per square foot. Materials also show that 168,130 people with an average household income of $88,719 live within five miles. Those last two data points should make most grocers happy.

The second tower, which faces Links and makes up about 25,000 square feet, is where the grocery store will go. Robbins says a deal is close with the grocer, which he describes as a smaller model store  complementary to the nearby Whole Foods Market, giving residents and workers a second option when it comes to grocery stores.

Robbins says that the store should be announced soon and there is a backup should the first deal fall through.

“I’m very comfortable to say that we will have a grocery store. The owners are committed to make that happen.”

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