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Workforce housing project in Rosemary District advances

Written by on Saturday, April 6, 2024

Phase Two of Lofts on Lemon is on a fast track to approval by the City of Sarasota.


By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: Apr. 5, 2024

Host: A proposal for a workforce apartment complex near downtown Sarasota is sailing through the approval process, and Ramon Lopez is trying to catch up. There already is a long line for prospective tenants of the 100 rentals, but it’s not without controversy. The Sarasota Housing Authority wants to build eight stories high, which is allowed under a new Florida law, it wants narrower sidewalks, and it wants to be allowed build a long and boring facade along Lemon Avenue.

Ramon Lopez: The Sarasota Housing Authority plans for more affordable housing projects in the City of Sarasota. This, after the Authority, founded in 1938 as one of the first public housing agencies in the Sunshine State, emerged from federal receivership after falling on hard times.

Most of the old public housing is being torn down and replaced with new, large buildings built to last.

Lofts on Lemon is located at the North end of Lemon Avenue, in the Rosemary District.

The latest example for the Authority is the Lofts on Lemon II affordable housing project, the second phase of that project in the Rosemary District. It appears Lofts on Lemon II is on a fast track to the Sarasota City Commission. It was just unveiled to the Sarasota City Development Review Committee on Wednesday, April 3.  The attainable housing development goes before the City Planning Board just a week later – on April 10 – to iron out some construction details.

Chris Gallagher, with Hoyt Architects, introduced the project to the DRC panel members.

Chris Gallagher: Back a few years ago, we did Lofts on Lemon I, and we always anticipated the second phase, but we didn’t know what this was going to look like. But here we are today with this. We’re proposing an eight-story building with 100 units in it. So this would be using Live Local, in order to get that eight storys. This one will be fronting… It was called Lofts on Lemon, but the first building was actually on Cohen Way. This one will be on Lemon Avenue. We’re intending to use the same access points on 9th Street that we created under Phase One. This one will be putting parking underneath the building, unlike we did in Phase One.

RL: Lofts on Lemon II will be built at 851 North Lemon Avenue in the Rosemary District. As Gallagher said, the Sarasota Housing Authority seeks to erect on the three-acre property an eight-story, 100-unit residential building with parking. One hundred units are permitted, since they will all be classified attainable. The Housing Authority is going with eight stories, as allowed by the state of Florida’s Live Local Act.

The site already has 130 existing residential units in one five-story building with parking located on Lemon Avenue, with 9 th Street to the North and Cohen Way to the West. Access will remain on 9th Street.

Two Planning Board zoning code changes are being sought. The Housing Authority wants the code adjustments expedited before finalization of the DRC review process. Eight feet versus the standard 12 feet-wide sidewalks are sought. The Authority also wants 125 feet of the length of the parking garage wall to be unbroken by an architectural feature. The standard is an architectural feature every 80 feet. The increase in spacing is needed because of the design of the parking levels in the garage.

The Housing Authority is not planning for downstairs retail along Lemon, and it wants a long, mostly unbroken street front.

The Housing Authority can expect pushback on the project. Some neighbors are anxious about the eight stories. Tina Steele lives in a five-story apartment building there. She says the original Lofts on Lemon already wipes out her view of the bay and sunsets. Steele says eight stories will block the sun for most of the late afternoon. She says the Live Local legislation “removes any control over growth from municipalities.” Steele backs more attainable housing for Sarasota, but wants it to be done with only five floors, she says.

This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.

 

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