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Developers of big downtown Sarasota parcel look to spring 2024 opening

Activity is heating up at Main Plaza, which is primed to reshape a large swath of east Main Street.

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 5:00 a.m. June 26, 2023
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
One Main Plaza in downtown Sarasota is scheduled to be complete by next summer.
One Main Plaza in downtown Sarasota is scheduled to be complete by next summer.
Photo by Mark Gordon
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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Walking over wood beams and dirt while donning a yellow construction vest and a white hard hat, Kevin Robbins is in his element one recent sweltering weekday morning, as the buzz of jackhammers and metal clinging linger. The longtime Sarasota commercial real estate broker is talking about some of the wow factors at One Main Plaza in downtown Sarasota. The project is a significant redevelopment of 1991 Main St., a 259,000-square-foot complex and indoor mall that had been known simply as Main Plaza. 

Robbins, 39, has a history with the property. Not necessarily in leasing or brokering deals, but in hanging out with buddies and going to movies. That goes back to the 1990s, when Main Plaza was the go-to spot for Sarasota area high school kids. The Hollywood 20 movie theater (now 11) was the anchor, and teenager magnet. 

“That’s the place your parents would drop you off and where you would hang out, maybe eat at Applebees,” says Robbins, a 2002 Riverview High School graduate. “You would go to the movies and then be like, ‘OK, where do we go now?” 

In a full-circle moment, Robbins, with Harry E. Robbins Associates, is now helping to market and lease One Main Plaza. 

The project is being developed by Greenwich, Connecticut based-Belpointe, a private equity company formed in 2019 to develop properties in federally designated Opportunity Zones. Belpointe acquired 8.6 acres of the roughly 10-acre Main Plaza site in December 2019 — its first acquisition since its creation and initial public offering earlier that year — for $20 million. The lead contractor on the project is Suffolk Construction. Officials decline to disclose a total value on One Main, only to say it’s in excess of a $130 million construction loan it recently obtained for the development. 

One Main Plaza is transformative for two reasons, say both Robbins and Eric Fenton, vice president of development for Belpointe.  

A big one is that side of Main Street, the east end, also known as upper Main, has never had a residential component. That will change with One Main’s pair of 10-story apartment complexes, under the names Aster and Links. In total, there will be 424 units, ranging from one- to three-bedroom apartments to four-bedroom town home-style penthouses. 

Aster, named after the aster flower, several variations of which are native to Florida, will face Main Street and is scheduled to be completed by April 2024. Links meanwhile, named for the street in front of it, Links Avenue, which itself is named for the space that was once a golf course, is scheduled to be completed by June 2024. A leasing office expected to open by February. 

“This is a picture-perfect example of making Sarasota more of a mixed-use city,” Robbins says. “No one has ever lived on that side of Main Street.” 

“It’s going to bring a lot of people to the streets,” adds Fenton. “It will really add to the vibrancy of eastern Main Street.”

A site plan for 1991 Main St.
Courtesy rendering

The focus of the apartments will be to create units that “look more like houses than college apartments,” says Robbins, with bigger and wider living rooms and dining rooms. Units will range in size from 1,500 square feet to 2,400 square feet and many include large balcony spaces. Robbins and officials with Belpointe decline to disclose pricing information for the apartments. The company will be marketing the apartments to a variety of demographics, including downsizers, both from the area and out of state, in addition to families.  

Amenities include a rooftop space with a private dining area and outdoor grills as well as a center courtyard with a heated saltwater pool. The complex will also include 1,200 parking spaces, according to marketing material for the project.  

One Main, a football field or so away from the Sarasota County Courthouse and Judicial Center, is also transformative for its tenant mix in an area many agree has been long-neglected in retail and restaurant options. “This will really connect downtown to Orange Avenue,” says Robbins, of the lower part of Main, which is dotted with a variety of restaurants and other retail options. (Upper Main, to be sure, isn’t totally devoid of restaurants. Options across from Main Plaza include Mediterraneo, a popular Italian restaurant and longtime tenant; upscale American comfort food restaurant Made; and Utamaro Sushi Bar.) 

One of the biggest pieces of the retail tenant mix, announced May 23, is a Sprouts Farmers Market. The Phoenix-based specialty grocer, growing rapidly in Florida, is opening a 23,000-square-foot store in One Main. The location will be roughly where the former Staples was located. Sprouts, the second national organic-focused grocer going downtown, joining Whole Foods, “really wanted to be downtown,” says Robbins. 

“They looked a little south and a little east,” he adds, “but were pretty open to what we were doing here and jumped on it pretty quickly.” 

On the Main Street side, closer to the movie theater, the plan is to have something of a mini restaurant row. Robbins, during a tour, says they are working on potential leases for a variety of restaurants. One would be an all-day coffee shop, while two others would be split between a higher-end modern cocktail-style place and a casual dining restaurant. Other potential tenants include a bank and an ice cream shop. There will be 55,000 square feet of ground-floor retail in total. “We are talking to some great restaurants,” Fenton says. 

When complete, One Main Plaza will look quite different from 1985, when an investment group led by developer Dr. Mark Kauffman and attorney David Band revamped the site and brought in new office and retail tenants. In addition to Applebees, other come-and-gone tenants include Ker's Wing House, a YMCA branch and various Florida state offices. 



Mark Gordon

Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

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