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Business Observer Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015 5 years ago

Neighbors douse developer's Starbucks plans

Coffee giant abandons plans for a store just north of downtown Sarasota.

SARASOTA — Nine months after announcing plans to bring a Starbucks to a high-traffic area just north of downtown Sarasota, a development group has abandoned its effort.

The decision came after residents in the nearby Tahiti Park neighborhood raised concerns about the impact of the proposed coffee shop on surrounding streets, according to a story in the Sarasota Observer, sister paper of the Business Observer. According to Laurie Rozen, Starbucks director of store development in Florida, the group ultimately determined the North Trail site was not optimal for the business.

“Our due diligence process has revealed this site is not feasible and would not result in the exceptional experience Starbucks prides itself in providing to our customers,” Rosen writes in an email to Tahiti Park residents.
The developers, consisting of Starbucks corporate and Casto Southeast Realty Services, began the city review process this spring. Casto was under contract to purchase the former site of El Pescador, a Mediterranean restaurant that closed in 2013.

The group hoped to place a drive-thru Starbucks at 1603 N. Tamiami Trail. Almost immediately, nearby residents keyed in on the proposed entry and exit on Hampton Road. The road serves as the only point of access to Tahiti Park, and residents say the significant traffic increase would be a major safety concern.

The ensuing months saw multiple traffic studies and conversations with city officials, nearby developers and the Florida Department of Transportation. Tahiti Park Neighborhood Association President Jennifer Ahearn-Koch says that after all that work she believes the residents were vindicated.

“I hope they looked at this and said, 'Jeez, it's probably a dangerous situation,'” Ahearn-Koch says. “'We'd better move on.'”

Starbucks representatives did not respond to calls for comment.

Ahearn-Koch says residents weren't necessarily opposed to any potential commercial development on the former El Pescador site. If the conversation resurfaces in the future, however, the neighborhood is likely to remain focused on how its residential road network is impacted.

“We know (the property is zoned) commercial, and we understand that,” Ahearn-Koch says. “We were not against Starbucks if they could have used another ingress and egress — that was our main contention.”

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