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Developer presents workforce housing project for Main Street

Written by on Thursday, January 4, 2024

This could be the first project in posh downtown Sarasota to take advantage of a new regulation that allows for higher density.

By Florence Fahringer

Original Air Date: Jan. 3, 2024

Host: Plans for a new high-density condominium downtown got one step closer to becoming a reality with a meeting of the Development Review Committee earlier today. WSLR News Reporter Florence Fahringer has the details.

Florence Fahringer: There’s a block along Main Street which doesn’t particularly stand out. It’s small, just over an acre in size, more parking lot than development. It houses a handful of businesses, the Tube Dude Art Gallery being the most notable among them. Plans are underway which would flip the block on its head, turning it into one of the densest residential buildings in the area. The city’s Development Review Committee met earlier today to discuss these plans.

Development Review Committee Member: Alright, good morning everyone, I’m gonna call this meeting to order. First is 24-ASP-02, this is 1718 Main Street mixed-use project. As always, if you could introduce yourselves and the project.

Developers: I’m Joel Freedman, Freedman Consulting. Mark Mueller, with ISS, civil. John Harris, with the architect, [unintelligible], Bill Smith, landscape architect, William T. Smith & Associates.

Okay, so we’re here talking about a redevelopment project, the address we’re using is 1718 Main Street, it’s a whole city block there, if I could have the overhead … you can see on the north is main street, then we’ve got Bamboo … we got, which one is that … yeah, Pine Place, I always forget Pine Place, and Indian Place here, two little small side streets. What we’re proposing is a mixed use building. It’s got a small commercial space on the corner, with two hundred and twenty … six? Yeah, 226 units.

FF: It looks like every nook and cranny of the proposal was nitpicked, though no major point of contention arose between the developers and the committee. The discussion lasted about fifteen minutes; committee members rattled off their multiple comments, and the developers nodded their heads in tandem. Some adjustments to be made, some more meetings to be had, but nothing to indicate it wouldn’t happen. So what exactly is it?

Drawing of the proposed building’s facade facing Main Street.

It is a 10-story, 226-unit condominium. The first three floors will mostly be parking, the remaining seven will host residential units, each with one to three bedrooms. It’ll have a courtyard and pool on the fourth floor, and a retail space on the first, which the developers hope will host a fine-dining restaurant. It stands out in three ways: the first being that it’s all rentals, a rare occurrence in Sarasota’s bougie downtown; the second being that it’s unusually dense, four-times denser than such land is usually allowed to be; the third being the reason it gets to be so dense — by utilizing a new city regulation which allows residential buildings to be denser, as long as fifteen percent of units are listed at “attainable” rather than “market” prices. As such, land which would normally hold around sixty market-rate units will instead host two-hundred market-rate units, and twenty-five attainably-priced units. 

Though the project is unlikely to face any serious push-back, opinions are mixed. While some applaud the construction of affordably-priced rentals in the downtown, neighbors have some reservations. Most notably, some residents of the condominium just across the street would prefer that their condominium remain the only densely populated block in the area, citing concerns about increased foot and automotive traffic, among other vaguely alluded to “adverse impacts” of density. 

Construction hasn’t started, the buildings which the plan anticipates razing still stand on the block, and the businesses inside said buildings continue operations, with no real plans to relocate, but the writing’s on the wall: the condos are coming, sooner or later, and with them may just come a new norm: denser and more affordable housing downtown, albeit at the cost of even more unaffordable housing. 

This is Florence Fahringer, reporting for WSLR.

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