As ground was officially broken in late May on the Quay Sarasota Waterfront District, one question anxiously arose: What’s to become of the historic, long vacant Belle Haven Apartments building that stands at the 15-acre property’s northern edge?
It turns out GreenPointe Communities, the Jacksonville-based developer of the mixed-use project—condominiums, retail, hotel and office—that will rise over the next several years on the prime downtown bayfront land between the Ritz-Carlton and the Hyatt Regency, is keeping the Belle Haven.
GreenPointe has begun demolishing parts of the interior to reconfigure it as its temporary office space while the rest of the years-long project comes to fruition. Afterwards, says Brett Blank, development manager for Quay Sarasota, the ultimate repurposing will be determined. “As Quay Sarasota continues to be developed,” he told us in an email statement, “GreenPointe will establish the highest and best use of the building as it is integrated into the fabric of the waterfront district.”
Blank says three main components of the building are historically significant: the exterior (including windows and doors), the interior light well in the center of the building and the internal stairwells. “We are taking extreme care in these areas and are working directly with Dr. Clifford Smith in the City of Sarasota’s Planning Department on keeping the renovations and repairs true to the original intent of the structure,” he told us.
That’s good news for historic preservationists, who lament the loss of the John Ringling Tower and so many other buildings of the 1920s. The Mediterranean Revival Belle Haven Apartments, called the El Vernona Apartments when it opened in 1926, was designed by architect Dwight James Baum. Baum also designed John and Mable Ringling’s Venetian Gothic mansion, Ca d’Zan, which is now a centerpiece of the Ringling Museum complex. The three-story building was converted into offices in 1984, the same year it was entered in the National Register of Historic Places.