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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 29, 2017 8 months ago

Forward Progress

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A 42-acre, city-owned tract in Sarasota will take the first tangible step toward a major, multiyear overhaul with a master plan in 2018.
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

By the end of 2018, Sarasota's expansive municipal bayfront is likely to have a clear roadmap for future redevelopment, thanks to a master plan being developed for the 42-acre tract.

Boston-based urban design firm Sasaki Associates' work on a master plan for The Bay is expected to do more than unify the city's land uses and provide a cohesive framework for development, however.

Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization (SBPO) leaders hope the blueprint will better link the waterfront tract — currently home to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, the Municipal Auditorium, Garden Club and Sarasota Orchestra — to the city's burgeoning downtown. And in the weeks since Sasaki was hired in mid-October, city leaders have expanded the scope of the firm's work to include land containing an adjacent boat launch and Centennial Park, at 1059 N. Tamiami Trail.

“We hired Sasaki because they checked all the boxes: They've done waterfront sites, they do public spaces, they do community-based work,” says A.G. Lafley, SBPO's chair. “And just as importantly, they have a well-earned reputation for execution. They don't just sell you a master plan and move on.”

Sasaki, which has completed plans for Chicago; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Charleston, S.C.; and Austin, Texas, among other cities, is expected to deliver a final draft of its plan in July.

Lafley, a former Procter & Gamble CEO and chair of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., says Sasaki officials will return to Sarasota in February to collect data and citizen input to help formulate ideas and concepts.

The first redevelopment at The Bay would likely be completed in 2020, he says.

“We want to make it accessible and open to all, affordable and connected to the surrounding neighborhoods and the community at large,” Lafley says.

Although The Bay is Sarasota's most prominent pending redevelopment, it isn't the only multiphase, waterfront project slated to move forward in the year ahead.

Adjacent to The Bay, Jacksonville-based GreenPointe Communities is expected to begin infrastructure work for a planned $1 billion development. The project, a revamped 15-acre Sarasota Quay, has been approved for roughly 700 residences, 175 hotel rooms and hundreds of thousands of square feet of office, retail and restaurant space.

GreenPointe is currently awaiting approval on a pair of permits from Sarasota that would allow utilities, roadways, stormwater management and other infrastructure. “We plan to initiate construction activity on the site immediately upon approvals,” says Rick Harcrow, GreenPointe's regional president.

The company also is working with city officials and Florida Department of Transportation officials on a planned traffic roundabout, which will be installed at the entrance to the Quay site at Fruitville Road and U.S. 41. That roundabout, one of several being planned for the stretch of North Tamiami Trail that bisects downtown Sarasota and its bayfront, is expected to begin construction late next year.

FDOT is ultimately expected to reimburse GreenPointe for some $6 million the developer spends to fund the roundabout and related work. “We expect the infrastructure work to consume much of 2018,” Harcrow says.

With infrastructure in place, GreenPointe will begin selling off finished pads and “blocks” to developers tied to specific projects.

The first of those projects, a 73-unit luxury condominium tower, will be developed by West Palm Beach-based The Kolter Group, the company behind the recently completed Vue Sarasota Bay and Westin Hotel in downtown Sarasota and the 41-story One St. Petersburg condo and hotel tower under construction in downtown St. Petersburg.

The “Ritz-Carlton Residences,” as Kolter's project is being called, will provide amenities available to guests and unit owners within the adjacent Ritz-Carlton Sarasota hotel and condo project.

Kolter intends to break ground on its tower sometime next year and complete it in 2020. Harcrow says the two companies are finalizing a 1.8-acre land sale for the development.

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