Real Estate

Rosemary Rising

With eight new planned projects, Sarasota's Rosemary District's long-delayed promise may be coming true.

By Cooper Levey-Baker Photography by Everett Dennison September 4, 2015

by Cooper Levey-Baker

Photography by Everett Dennison


With eight new planned projects, the district's long-delayed promise may be coming true.


Shutterstock 179111306 m7cj72


WALK AROUND THE ROSEMARY DISTRICT FOR AN HOUR. SIGNS OF NEW LIFE ABOUND. A HUGE YELLOW CRANE SITS IN THE MIDDLE OF A FIELD OF SAND ALONG THE NORTH SIDE OF FOURTH STREET, THE FUTURE HOME OF THE VANGUARD LOFTS CONDOMINIUMS. From Boulevard of the Arts almost to 10th Street, a black fence surrounds 6.5 empty acres, soon to become CitySide, a 470-unit apartment complex scheduled to open next fall. Across the street, a sign advertises the townhomes of Valencia at Rosemary Place. “Coming Soon!” that placard promises.


You might say that about the neighborhood as a whole. But haven’t we heard this before?


Bounded by Fruitville Road on the south, 10th Street on the north, U.S. 41 on the west and Orange Avenue on the east, the Rosemary District was originally called Black Bottom, then Overtown, and served as the then segregated city’s first African-American community. In the 1930s and ’40s, the city encouraged black residents to move north into the newer community of Newtown, then demolished many homes and buildings in Rosemary.


Community leaders have repeatedly described the neighborhood as ripe for gentrification, but progress has been fitful. The furniture stores Home Resource and Sarasota Home Collection have succeeded on Central Avenue for more than 10 years, and Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida and Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences have built impressive campuses on the same street, but many businesses—coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques—have come and gone.


So have condo projects. When the recession hit, last decade’s ambitious crop of Rosemary developers walked away from their investments or just put their projects on hold. But today, partly buoyed by the city’s recent decision to allow developers to build denser projects, developers are coming forward again.


Vanguard Lofts, CitySide and Valencia are three of at least eight new residential and commercial developments being considered or built in Rosemary. Ranging from dense apartment complexes to upscale townhomes, from performing arts rehearsal spaces to retail shops, the projects are giving business owners and residents hope that Rosemary’s potential as a lively, downtown-adjacent, mixed-use urban community will at last be used.


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Design shops line Central Avenue.


There is an elephant in the room: the ongoing presence of the homeless, who congregate in Rosemary mainly because of Resurrection House and the Salvation Army’s shelter, which provide homeless services, and the temporary work company, Trojan Labor, which hires homeless workers. (See “The Homeless Factor,” page 62.)


Still, developers and neighborhood supporters insist that this time it’s different. Believe the hype, says attorney Bill Merrill, who helped shepherd the new density rules through City Hall: “It’s the best thing that’s happened to this city in 10 years, and the place is on fire.”


Density Boost


Pittsburgh-based Rosalyne Holdings LLC purchased the land that would become CitySide in March 2013. Market research told them Sarasota was desperately lacking quality affordable rental options, but zoning on the property only allowed for 25 units per acre. In the company’s estimation, that wasn’t dense enough to make building a new apartment complex worth it.


“Apartment development is a game of pennies and nickels,” says Rosalyne chief operating officer Debra Alward. “Unlike condo development, the margins are a lot leaner. When we looked at the numbers, we realized that more density would really help the project be more successful.”


"Apartment Development is a game of pennies and nickles."

Rosalyne CEO and founder Bruce Weiner met with attorney Merrill to brainstorm about how best to increase density in the neighborhood. The plan they eventually crafted called for the city to bump up the per-acre maximum density to 75 units on individual properties while maintaining the overall 25-unit maximum density for Rosemary as a whole.


Merrill says developers and businesspeople were skeptical that the city commission—which at that time had a reputation as being hostile to intense new developments—would approve the plan. But commissioners Willie Shaw, Susan Chapman, Suzanne Atwell, Paul Caragiulo and Shannon Snyder expressed unanimous support. Merrill says keeping the rules simple was vital to making the Rosemary Residential Overlay District a success.


“In order to get a revitalization of an area, you have to give incentives that aren’t burdened with lots of obligations,” he says. “If it’s too complicated, people won’t do it. To the city commission’s and the staff’s credit, they made it simple.”


Overlay District Details


The creation of the Overlay District last October allowed CitySide to go forward. The project, the largest so far proposed in the neighborhood, will include 470 units on 6.5 acres, a density of 72.3 units per acre, which wouldn’t have been allowed under the old rules. Since the Overlay District was approved, two other projects have taken advantage of the new density allowances. Sarasota Flats, proposed for the north side of Fruitville between Central and Lemon Avenues, features 228 units on 3.1 acres, 73.5 units per acre, while 7th St. Apartments along Lemon Avenue could include 295 units on four acres, an average of 73.8 units per acre.


Anand Pallegar recently relocated his web development company, atLarge, Inc., from a converted Laurel Park home to a Rosemary District warehouse. He says the potential boom in rental units from projects like CitySide is one of the most exciting parts of being in the neighborhood today. “It’s going to produce a huge influx of younger talent,” Pallegar says. With easy connections to downtown, the bayfront, Ringling College of Art and Design and more, rentals in Rosemary could help finally attract a young professional population the city has been trying to grow for years.


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Lolita Tartine cafe livens up a side street in Rosemary.


Alward says people interested in CitySide and urban living in general share a “mindset,” not a demographic. “We hope there will be students from Ringling, young professionals, downtown workers, teachers from the Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences, retired couples who want to rent before they buy and singles who don’t want the maintenance of a house,” she says. Units there will range from 572 to 1,403 square feet, with rental rates estimated to range from $1,000 to $2,000.


Rosemary District could see as many as 6,000 new residents. 

Overall, the Rosemary District could see as many as 6,000 new residents once built out, says downtown economic development coordinator Norm Gollub. For perspective, the current downtown Community Redevelopment Area, which contains the Rosemary District and spans from 10th Street to Mound Street and from Sarasota Bay to School Avenue, includes only 6,900 residents. (That number, however, doesn’t fully capture how many people actually live downtown or live there full-time. The residential neighborhoods Gillespie Park and Laurel Park aren’t included in the redevelopment area.) One bonus of dense development is it attracts new retailers, who scrutinize population and income metrics before moving into a new community, Gollub says.


Low-density Projects


Not every new project shares the dense-is-more strategy of CitySide, Sarasota Flats and 7th St. Apartments. Valencia at Rosemary Place, planned to go up on the northwest corner of Boulevard of the Arts and Cocoanut Avenue, will have just 30 townhomes, low enough density that it wasn’t an issue. The same goes for Vanguard Lofts, a six-unit luxury building with modern architecture set on just a quarter-acre. Rosemary Square, being built on Boulevard of the Arts between Central and Lemon avenues, includes 30 condo units that are being sold to the Sarasota Opera for use as housing for their performers and artists.


Rosemary Square also calls for street-level business space. Mindy Kauffman, a partner in the development, has owned the property since 2003. A plan to build there fell apart during the housing bust. Kauffman says Rosemary Square will likely include a mix of restaurants or coffee shops, art galleries and studios, and space for arts organizations that could use the room for rehearsals.


"We're literally trying to bring some arts back to the [Boulevard of the Arts]."

“We’re literally trying to bring some arts back to the [Boulevard of the Arts],” Kauffman says. “I want to put something there that will energize the area and provide retail and a gathering place for the whole neighborhood.”


That trend toward artsy redevelopment fits with the neighborhood’s more recent attempt to brand itself as the Sarasota Design District. That name was created because of the concentration of architects and design businesses there. Liliana Allen, who co-owns the Central Avenue countertop and flooring business, Oracle, says the Design District brand hasn’t taken hold yet, but an increase in residents and foot traffic could boost the neighborhood’s image as an art and design hub. “I think that the residents will improve things,” she says. “They’ll need coffee shops, restaurants and bars.”


That artsy vibe and urban flavor is exactly what attracted Pallegar to the Rosemary District. “It has this urban grit to it,” he says.


The Rosemary District has risen and fallen many times over the years. For the latest wave of developers and new residents like Pallegar, it’s on the rise again. “I really do believe it’s going to change,” he says.




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Longtime neighborhood business, The Sarasota Collection, on Central Avenue.






Hanging over every discussion about the Rosemary District remains the ongoing presence of the homeless. Many—including some who are mentally ill or addicted to drugs and alcohol—cluster in the Rosemary District, sometimes arguing loudly, panhandling, and even relieving themselves and having sex outside.


“It’s been an environment closer to a Third World country than a civilization like Sarasota,” says Michael Bush, president of Home Resource, located just down the street from the Salvation Army.


Neighborhood, city and county leaders have argued about how best to provide shelter and social services to the city’s homeless for years. One current proposal dubbed the “3 Into 1 Plan” would convert the Salvation Army facility on 10th Street into a so-called “come as you are” shelter with beds open to anyone in need 24 hours a day.


Many residents and business owners resist the idea, feeling it would attract even more homeless to the neighborhood, and at press time other locations for a city shelter were also being suggested.


But even if the problem isn’t solved soon, Rosalyne COO Debra Alward isn’t worried that the homeless will discourage potential CitySide renters.


“Having additional residents in the neighborhood will improve the overall safety and security,” she says. “More people with eyes on the street, more activity; it tends to make it a safer place.”


And Merrill points out, the presence of the homeless in downtown proper hasn’t hampered the sale of new luxury condos there.




Residential and commercial projects approved or proposed in the Rosemary District.



Description: Two concrete-block apartment buildings to be built in two phases, with 470 rental units total.

Status: Construction on phase one has begun.

Location: Between Cocoanut and Florida avenues and Boulevard of the Arts and 10th Street

Owner/developer: Rosalyne Holdings; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Bruce Weiner, CEO

Pricing: $1,000-$2,000 per month

Unit size range: 572-1,403 square feet

Density: 72.3 units/acre

Property size: 6.5 acres

Number of stories: 5

New parking spaces: 752


Valencia at Rosemary Place

Description: Phase two of the Renaissance Condominium located on U.S. 41. Includes 30 luxury townhomes.

Status: Final approval pending

Location: West side of Cocoanut Avenue, between Boulevard of the Arts and May Lane

Owner/developer: Icon Real Estate Ventures; Largo, Fla.; Ryan Studzinski, principal

Pricing: Not yet announced

Unit size range: 1,900-2,500 square feet

Density: 25 units/acre

Property size: 1.5 acres

Number of stories: 5

New parking spaces: 69


Vanguard Lofts

Description: Townhomes designed by the Rosemary District architecture firm Halflants + Pichette

Status: Under construction

Location: 1343 Fourth St.; north side of Fourth Street, between Florida and Central avenues

Owner/developer: Tetra Terra Development, LLC; San Francisco, Calif.; Kevin Bryon, president

Number of residential units: 6

Number of units sold: 4

Pricing: $699,000-$849,000

Unit size range: 2,280-3,503 square feet

Density: 25 units/acre

Property size: .24 acres

Number of stories: 4

New parking spaces: 6


Rosemary Square

Description: 30-unit condo that will house Sarasota Opera artists and performers, plus first-floor commercial space with potential for restaurants, cafés, performing arts organizations and more. Construction value estimated at $20 million.

Status: Under construction

Location: 1440 and 1430 Boulevard of the Arts, 550 Central Ave. and 1433 Fifth St.; on the south side of Boulevard of the Arts, between Central and Lemon avenues

Owner/developer: Rosemary Square, LLC; Sarasota; developing partners are Mindy Kauffman, Mark Kauffman, Jim Lampl and Jonathan Parks

Number of units sold: 30

Pricing: Not yet disclosed

Density: 20.7 units/acre

Property size: 1.5 acres

Number of stories: 4

New parking spaces: 41


7th St. Apartments (Also known as Elan Rosemary)

Description: Rental apartment complex that includes three courtyards plus a small dog park.

Status: Approval pending

Location: 627 N. Lemon Ave.; on the east side of Lemon Avenue, between Boulevard of the Arts and Eighth Street

Owner/developer: Greystar GP II, LLC; Charleston, S.C.; Managing Director of Development Todd Wigfield and Director of Development Lewis Stoneburner

Number of residential units: 295

Pricing: Not yet disclosed

Unit size range: 600-1,250 square feet

Density: 73.9 units/acre

Property size: 4 acres

New parking spaces: 460


Sarasota Flats

Description: “Urban apartment community” that includes rental units, a pool, lounge, five-story garage and more. Construction value estimated at $35 million.

Status: Approval pending

Location: 1401 Fruitville Road; on the north side of Fruitville, between Lemon and Central avenues

Owner/developer: Framework Group, LLC; Tampa, Fla.; Phillip Smith, president

Number of residential units: 228

Pricing: Not yet disclosed

Density: 73.5 units/acre

Property size: 3.1 acres

Number of stories: 5

Commercial space: 2,700 square feet of leasing, office and retail space

New parking spaces: 406


1515 Fruitville

Description: Redevelopment of the former Churchills Furniture property, purchased after foreclosure in 2012.

Status: Under construction

Location: 1515 Fruitville Road; on the northeast corner of Lemon Avenue and Fruitville Road

Owner/developer: K G J Properties Management, LLC; Sarasota; Kimberley Jordinson, manager

Property size: 1.04 acres

Number of stories: 1

Commercial space: 16,380 square feet of commercial space

Pricing: Not yet disclosed

New parking spaces: 33


Sarasota Marriott Hotel and Condominium

Description: Marriott Hotel with restaurant and spa, plus retail, meeting and ballroom space and residential condo units.

Status: Approval pending

Location: 332 N. Tamiami Trail; along U.S. 41, between Fruitville Road and Fourth Street

Owner/developer: Palsar Developments, Inc.; Ontario, Canada; Fausto Palombo, president

Number of hotel rooms: 200

Number of residential units: 40

Pricing: Not yet disclosed

Density: 26.7 units/acre

Property size: 1.4 acres

Number of stories: 18

New parking spaces: 300

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