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Sarasota-Manatee
Business Observer Thursday, Jul. 7, 2022 2 months ago

Sarasota developer appeals rejection of plan to demolish downtown Mira Mar building

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Seward Development will ask Sarasota City Commission to reverse June decision to reject demolition permit.
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

Developers looking to tear down the historic Mira Mar building in Sarasota are appealing a decision by the city’s Historic Preservation Board to turn down a permit to demolish the structure. In the meantime, the company, Seaward Development, has mostly moved out of the building as needed shoring has yet to be installed.

Seaward, which is in the process of buying the the property from its long-time owner Dr. Mark Kaufman, is planning to present its case for why the Mira Mar needs to come down to the Sarasota City Commission after the city preservation board declined a request to allow for the demolition of the building in June.

The board voted against the proposal after a group of residents and tenants argued that despite issues with the building it was a part of Sarasota’s history and needed to be preserved. Seaward, however, has argued that the building is unsafe.

It is proposing to replace the existing Mira Mar with a two-story retail component and 10-story residential component with 70 condominiums. Seaward officials say the new building will pay homage to the original look and design of the property, first built in 1922.

A date has not been set for a hearing before the commission. A city spokeswoman says in an email that staff is in the process of scheduling a date for Seaward to present its case.

Meanwhile, Seaward, which is a tenant in Mira Mar, says shoring that a city inspector recommended to ensure the building’s structural viability has yet to be installed.

Seaward, which continues to say the building is unsafe, has its employees working remotely and a spokeswoman for the company says the developer has “mostly packed up their things.”

It is “relying on the building owner and his engineer on a day-to-day basis to inform tenants if it remains safe to be in the building,” the spokeswoman says.

Shoring, according to engineering blog The Structural World, is used to support a building to prevent collapse.

The city spokeswoman says in the email that the city was notified by the owner’s engineer, Karins Engineering, July 6 that “they are in the process of working with a contractor to get shoring along the north wall installed within the next few weeks.  They also mentioned they have not observed any new crack movement.”

In a June 14 email to Karins Engineering, Lawrence Murphy, a building official with the city, wrote that the South Palm Avenue property be “shored without delay and a shoring plan developed with your current findings with an importance placed on the second level connecting bridge.”

The Mira Mar building is actually two buildings connected by a bridge. Seaward’s application for demolition covers the entire property. Although the Mira Mar is considered historic to many in the community, it is not the original building that sits on the site and many renovations and changes have been made in the past century.

Critics of Seaward’s plan, who mostly agree the building is in need of repairs, have said the developer is playing up safety concerns in order to convince city officials to allow for the demolition.

In a June 15 email to tenants, Mira Mar’s property manager says Karins is monitoring the situation and “They continue to assure us that the building is currently safe for occupancy.”

A copy of the email was provided to the Business Observer by Paul Caragiulo, who co-owns Caragiulos Italian Restaurant at 69 S. Palm Ave. with his brothers and family.

Caragiulo, whose restaurant has 18 years left on its lease, is opposed to Seaward’s plan.

Seaward says despite the work done to keep the property intact, the 100-year-old wood frame is badly damaged, including drastically undersized foundations, corroded structural wood wall studs, extensive insect damage and wood rot. This, the developer says, calls “into question the load path for gravity loads and walls observed with no lateral resistance to wind loads.”

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