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Midtown SRQ takes a big step towards groundbreaking

Written by on Thursday, April 25, 2024

The land at the edge of Newtown, on which the controversial mixed-use project could go up, gets a rezone.


By Florence Fahringer

Original Air Date: Apr. 24, 2024

Host: On Tuesday, a development proposal made its way back to the County Commission, as the next step in its path towards becoming a reality. The development calls for just over 1,400 new residences in a series of high-density buildings, located on the eastern edge of Newtown, the historically African American neighborhood in Sarasota. Florence Fahringer reports. 

Florence Fahringer: The “Midtown SRQ Development of Critical Concern” calls for high-density housing in an empty lot currently zoned as moderate density. The empty lot is just east of Newtown, and is just over an eighth its size. It would include 1,479 residences, 185 of them priced at 60% Area Median Income, another 185 will be 80% Area Median Income, and the remaining 1,113 will be priced at market-rate. That’s a quarter of residences which fall under the “attainable” category, and three quarters which do not. The development is also required to include at least a pharmacy and a grocery store. 

Draft plan for Midtown SRQ.

In February, public commenters from Newtown made their discontent known. They worried about the increased traffic thousands of new residents would bring to Martin Luther King Way; how the majority market-rate residencies would bring wealthy outsiders rather than provide housing for locals; how the less than 300 apartments which were “attainable” were still unattainable for locals; how this would gentrify Newtown; how Newtown does have a need for new developments, but for recreational centers and schools rather than expensive market-rate housing. In February, the only commissioner who seemed to take any of these comments into account was Mark Smith, who represents the area. Even while echoing the concerns of locals, Smith still threw in that he would vote to approve the project. The motion then passed unanimously. 

History repeated itself in this week’s county commission meeting — first as tragedy, then as farce, as the saying goes. During commissioner comments, Mark Smith voiced his thoughts on the project. 

Mike Moran: Would any commissioner like a full presentation on 25 A or B? Commissioner Smith.

Mark Smith: I do have a comment, if I could.

MM: Yes, sir.

MS: I don’t need a full presentation, but I just want to remind the board — and I’m willing to move this forward with a motion — but I wanted to remind the board that with this development, we need to look as a county to widening Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Tuttle Avenue, in our budget and CIP program; and also see about scheduling and getting in our CIP to enlarge and improve Newtown Estates park facility, as we’re adding 1,479 residential units and families to a park facility that right now is not able to facilitate all the kids in the neighborhood right now. So I just wanted to bring that up to the board’s attention, but I’m happy to make a motion to move this forward. 

FF: His was the only comment on the project made by the commission. Unlike February’s meeting, there were no presentations given by the developers, and no outcry from public commenters. Debate had given February’s meeting the appearance of an open-ended question; that appearance was absent in yesterday’s meeting. Smith moved to adopt the resolution, Commissioner Ron Cutsinger seconded the motion without comment. The commission then voted unanimously to adopt the resolution, and the motion passed. 

The land is still owned by the county, but this is another step in the direction towards the county selling the land to the Midtown SRQ developers. Pending approval by certain state agencies, the land will soon be rezoned from moderate density residential to high-density residential. The next step is for the Midtown SRQ developers to actually buy the land from the county, at which point they can begin construction. 

This is Florence Fahringer, reporting for WSLR News. 

 

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