The developer of the undeveloped 17-story Grande Sarasotan project for downtown Sarasota has submitted new plans to the city for a condominium-hotel development on the 2.9-acre parcel.
The land at the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Gulfstream Avenue has remained vacant since 2004 after two proposed condo projects never materialized. West Palm Beach-based The Kolter Group purchased the land for $40 million in 2005. In 2007, The Kolter Group backed off plans to build its Grande Sarasotan, citing low demand for condominiums at the time.
Kolter's new project will feature “contemporary, artistic” architecture — a shift from the towering Mediterranean-revival, classic style of the proposed Grande Sarasotan, says Bob Vail, head of Kolter's urban development division.
Preliminary plans for the new development call for a two-tower project. One tower will house 144 condo units — ranging from $700,000 to $1 million in price, Vail says. The other will be a 275-room hotel. According to Vail, each unit will face south and have bay views.
Vail says the development firm is in advanced talks with the Westin Hotels & Resorts branch of Starwood Hotels.
“We feel like the market is certainly recovering,” he says. “We think areas such as Sarasota and Naples and downtown West Palm and Delray Beach on the east coast are going to be the areas that will lead the market back.”
Vail says the goal is to break ground in a year if the project secures city approval.
Earlier this month, Kolter broke ground on a $30 million project with 84 condos and 11 two-story townhomes on St. Petersburg's Snell Isle. In what Vail sees as an indication of the condo market beginning to rebound, Kolter has seen a nearly 50% hike over the past year in condo sales at its Two City Plaza, in downtown West Palm Beach.
Plans submitted Feb. 27 are preliminary, and many details still have to be worked out.
City planners have seen preliminary faÃ§ade renderings, and they want Kolter to come back with improved design plans for the front of the project facing U.S. 41.
“We stressed to them we want them to try to come up with a 'wow' feature for that corner,” says Gretchen Schneider, general manager of planning and development with the city. “It is a visible, key intersection.”
Vail says the development firm would be talking to city planners about possible faÃ§ade elements. Vail also says Kolter is considering an arts theme for the project.
Most of the units in the condominium tower will be about 600 square feet smaller than the units proposed in the Grande Sarasotan, which were slated to sell for $1 million to $4 million a unit.
“We are not going for the large units with (as high of prices as the Grande),” Vail says.
To help bring unit costs down, early plans call for “more efficient living spaces” with less formal space.
Kolter has already donated a slice of land at the corner of U.S. 41 and Gulfstream to the city for the proposed construction of a multi-lane roundabout at the busy corner.
-reporting by Roger Drouin, correspondent