Sarasota Quay plan drives Fruitville roundabout

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The Quay property in Sarasota has long stood vacant and a victim of the 2008 recession. Soon it will all be changing and an 18-story condominium project will transform both the Bayfront and the skyline marking the first phase in a massive development project that will take years to build out.

The condominium, to be called The Grande, will be comprised of 73 residential units, a 9,500 square foot restaurant, as well as the impetus for a planned roundabout that will alter the traffic flow at Fruitville Road and US 41.

According to Gretchen Schneider, the General Manager of the City of Sarasota Planning and Development Department, the roundabout is desired by the developer as well as the city and is currently in the review process with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).

In fact, the construction of the planned roundabout will serve as the primary entrance for both the 18-story Grande, as well as the rest of the Quay Sarasota project.  The Grande is but a small part of the $1 billion project plan initiated by developer Greenpointe Communities. The company’s plan was granted approval by the city last year and allows 695 condominiums, 175 hotel rooms, 189,050 square feet of retail space and more than 35,000 square feet of office space, with buildings up to 18 stories tall.

The project will be phased in what are called development blocks, of which there are nine, and The Grande will be built in block six, at the southwest corner of the 15-acre site.

Schneider said that The Grande condominium project will undergo a technical review next week. The public can attend, but not comment at these meetings. What will happen is that all the departments that evaluate the proposal will weigh inn on what issues are not in compliance and need to be addressed. It is merely a technical review of the project. The Building Department and Engineering Department will be there to make sure it is compliant. Schneider said the time for the public to comment would be before the City Planning Board when the project is up for site plan approval, which will likely happen late this year or early in 2018.

Because the project has been approved in its overall scope, one area of particular concern to the public is the agreement that two Multi Use Recreational Trails (MURT) are incorporated into the plan. One of the trails will extend from US 41 and the entrance to the Ritz-Carlton property and will extend along the roadway to Boulevard of the Arts along the eastern edge of the Quay site.

The other MURT is less defined in that it will connect from US 41 and extend to the Bayfront and allow access along the waterfront.

These public trails will become instrumental in the future development of the Sarasota Bayfront to the north of the Quay site where the city owns 42 acres extending from Boulevard of the Arts to north of the 10th Street boat ramp.

The development of the city-owned 42 acres could be achieved if the city adopts a Master Plan that is underway with the effort of the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization.

The MURT trails are typically 12 feet wide, and the ultimate goal is to connect from the Bayfront at Mound Street near Marina Jacks to the Ringling Bridge and St. Armands and then north to the 42 acres that will someday be redeveloped by the city.

Part of the Quay project that the city hopes to see developed is a pedestrian connection to the Ritz-Carlton from the Quay. Schneider said that the MURT trail will be on private property at the Quay but public access was part of the approval. Who will pay for the trail’s maintenance and what the hours of access will be for the public have not been determined.

As for the roundabout, Schneider said that the developer hopes to have a slip-lane that would make for easy access to their development project. The roundabout will replace the traffic signal and FDOT is currently reviewing the technical aspects of the roundabout and will soon hold an open house to hear comments from the public on the roundabout proposal.

The Grande will definitely change the Bayfront skyline, said Schneider. She made clear that the city in its approval in that zoning district does not regulate height, but the number of stories. The 73-unit Grande, will be 18 stories in total but ceiling height and other considerations can alter the ultimate height of the building. Most developers tend to maximize the number of stories, and by comparison both The Vue and The Jewel are both 18 stories as well.

Schneider said of importance to the city and as part of the overall approval is the requirement for Greenpointe to restore the historic Belle Haven Hotel at the center of the property. The hotel dates back to the 1920s and the John Ringling era and the developer plans to use it as a sales office and later it will be integrated into the overall plan.

Most of the commission supported the project last year when it was approved, with others worried about the possibility of nine 18-story high rises and the amount of density on the site.

The approval last year marked the first time the city used a block or phasing system instead of a specific site plan. Only projects that are on greater than seven-acre sites will be able to use this process which allows approval in phases.

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