Tampa and Sarasota
Rick Harcrow joined Jacksonville-based GreenPointe Communities last year to oversee the development of a potential $1 billion waterfront development in downtown Sarasota. GreenPointe, a firm founded by long-time developer Ed Burr in 2008, acquired the 15-acre tract that will become Quay Sarasota for $27 million, after an Irish development firm defaulted on debt tied to the property. Current plans call for seven separate buildings that would be constructed over the course of a decade. Harcrow, who has an extensive development and land use background, recently discussed the status of the planned mixed-use project.
What's the overall status of Quay Sarasota at this juncture?
The project is progressing on schedule, and we've received approval from the Sarasota City Planning Board in the first of two hearings that are required. We're now focused on and proceeding to a City Commission hearing tentatively scheduled for October. There's been a lot of effort that's gone into those hearings, because they're a pivotal point for the project.
GreenPointe's Quay Sarasota will consist of nine blocks, each with unique offerings and uses.
Assuming the project receives the go-ahead from the Sarasota City Commission, when would infrastructure work at the Quay begin?
Assuming the commission approval happens in October, the next step for us would be to obtain permits for required infrastructure. That could be as early as the fourth quarter of this year, that would be our preferred timeline, or it could be pushed somewhat to the first quarter of 2017. But immediately following city commission approval, if that occurs, we would launch design work for a planned roundabout at Fruitville Road and U.S 41. That two-lane roundabout, which we've been working on with the city and the state FDOT, we'd like to have constructed within 30 months of commission approvals.
Do you at this stage have a good estimate for how much infrastructure would cost, and how long it would take to complete?
The roundabout itself is estimated to cost about $7 million, but the other work at this point we don't have good numbers on. There's earthwork to be done and major water and sewer mainlines that we'll need to install, and streets, and it'll be millions of dollars of piping and other infrastructure. Our plan won't cost as much as a previous design for the site, however, because we're not doing a subterranean parking structure, which would require excavating the entire site. We'll be creating a loop system for water, though, on the west side of U.S. 41. We expect all the infrastructure work on the south side of the project, where development will be concentrated initially, to be completed within 36 months once we get approvals.
Will GreenPointe be developing the project itself or does it plan to sell off various pad sites to others to develop?
GreenPointe will be the master developer, ensuring that the community's vision for the project is upheld, and we'll be responsible for all aspects of the development on every block increment, of which there are nine. We may develop each increment ourselves or bring in expertise depending on what asset class is involved, for say a restaurant or a hotel.
What uses do you anticipate being the first to be developed at Quay Sarasota?
The south side of the project will contain the initial development phase, as I mentioned, to go forward. Work will be near the planned roundabout, and I imagine the first land use to go vertical will be condominiums, and then we'll need to move pretty quickly to construct retail and entertainment spaces and a planned plaza area, which will be the heart and soul of what we're doing there. The refurbishment of the Belle Haven building also will occur pretty early on, as we're required to do under our agreement with the city. It's being cleaned up now and its bones are pretty good. Our thinking is it'll at first be our administrative offices and the project's welcome center, and transition to re-use, perhaps as a restaurant, later on.
Given the number of years the Quay will need to reach build out, is GreenPointe concerned that it'll run into the natural end of the current commercial real estate growth cycle?
Our development agreement with the city is for 10 years, which is pretty typical. We've said the life of the project will be seven to 10 years. That seems like a long time, but if you think about the work that has to take place before any occupant could move in, three of those years are used up on the front end. Now, is there a likelihood that macro-economic conditions could change over those years? Those of us in the real estate business are always mindful of that, but the fundamentals in Sarasota now and into the future look really good. Our runway looks solid, but if there is a market pause, the way our project is being designed, in block increments, it does allow us to be patient.
What amenities are envisioned for Quay Sarasota?
The central gathering place for the entire project will be what we're calling Quay Plaza, where people will be able to experience the waterfront through outdoor dining and open spaces. It's also where community events will be held — wine tastings to a farmers market to art shows. We envision a lot of energy there. We also have a Main Street concept, which we think will be a valuable amenity with outdoor cafes and coffee shops and shopping.