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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 4, 2015 6 years ago

Looking beyond The Vue

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As its hotel and condo project sells out, Kolter Group has designs on a pair of premier Sarasota properties.
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

Flush with its success at Vue Sarasota Bay, a $120 million hotel and condo project in downtown Sarasota, owner Kolter Group LLC is focusing on a pair of potential projects that would extend its development in Sarasota for years to come.

West Palm Beach-based Kolter is both exploring buying rights to the Pineapple Square retail and residential project downtown and partnering with the owners of the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota to develop as many as 90 new condominiums on a site adjacent to the luxury hotel.

“We're having serious discussions,” says Kolter Chief Executive Bobby Julien of the Ritz-Carlton project, which would be done in conjunction with resort owner SLAB LLC. “And the reason is we truly love Sarasota, we find the market there to be so attractive on so many levels.”

At Pineapple Square, a $200 million mixed-use project that stalled during the economic recession of the past decade, Kolter would supplant developer Isaac Group Holdings, of Ohio. Earlier this year, Isaac formally offered its entitlements tied to the project, at State Street and Lemon Avenue downtown, for sale.

“We're definitely working on it,” Julien says of Pineapple Square. “And we're quite serious, (we're) pretty far down the road. I'm hesitant to say any more at this point, though, because we've not met with the city about it.”

Kolter's two new potential projects come as residential sales at the Vue have exceeded expectations, leaving just two dozen upscale condos available for purchase out of 141. The project, under construction at U.S. 41 and Gulfstream Avenue downtown, also contains a 255-room Westin Hotel. Both are slated for completion in 2016.

If Kolter does finalize plans to develop new residences at the Ritz-Carlton, it would mark a significant change for owner Robert and Dan Buford, SLAB's partners.

Earlier this year, SLAB retained commercial brokerage firm JLL to market the resort, which in addition to the 266-room hotel includes a beach club on Lido Key, a Tom Fazio-designed golf course near Lakewood Ranch, a spa, and an exclusive members' club.

Upscale hotels throughout the U.S. have been eagerly sought by investors amid gains in occupancy and rental rates fueled by tourist increases, and as capital to acquire lodging properties became more abundant post-recession.

The new development plans, if they reach fruition, also would stand in contrast to those floated in 2008, when the Bufords filed a proposal with the state to develop an additional 119 hotel rooms on the land near the 17-story hotel's expansive ballroom, where the new condos also would be built. At the time, SLAB envisioned a 10-story tower to house most of the new rooms.

SLAB managing partner C. Robert Buford did not return calls for comment, and Isaac principal Butch Isaac declined to comment on the new development plans or Kolter's potential involvement.

For Kolter, the two projects would lengthen its development pipeline along Florida's Gulf Coast.

In addition tothe Vue, the company in Southwest Florida is also developing Verandah, a golf course-anchored community near Fort Myers, and One St. Petersburg, a mixed-use project designed to contain 253 luxury residences, a 174-room Hyatt hotel and retail space.

Scheduled to begin in March 2016, at 41 stories One St. Petersburg would be the city's tallest building.

- K.L. McQuaid

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