Built in 1969, the Bath & Racquet Fitness Club at 2170 Robinhood St., tucked behind Trader Joe’s on Tamiami Trail, has been a social hub for families for generations. They played tennis and racquetball, took lessons, swam outdoors and worked out in the fitness center. 

But in recent years, the 13-acre site, which includes the 40,000-square-foot fitness facility, a junior Olympic swimming pool, 29 tennis courts and ample parking, needed renovations and upgrades.

Plans by the previous owner, Scott Olson, to turn the parcel into a mixed-use community were opposed by neighbors who worried about privacy and increased traffic. Sarasota city commissioners ended up rejecting Olson's proposal in February 2020. 

Citing Covid safety concerns, the Club closed March 19 of last year and was sold to developer Mark Lucas for $5.5 million in late May. Lucas adjusted the site layout to create a better transition between multifamily neighborhoods to the north, single-family homes to the south and commercial activity on U.S. 41 to the west. Architect Michael Halflants of Halflants + Pichette led the design of the mixed-use community. The new plan still met with some resident opposition, but was approved by the city commission unanimously last month.

“It was helpful for us to see what didn't go through the last time, and we took all that in and tried to create a scheme that was more compatible,” Halflants says. “The project is larger than the previous by 50 percent, but it's more careful in terms of how it addresses the residential edges.”

The new Bath & Racquet Club calls for the construction of a new fitness center near the center of the 13 acres and 17 tennis courts located in the southeast corner of the property as a buffer between new buildings and existing homes. The residential buildings will be located on the north end of the property, bordering a neighborhood that already allows multifamily zoning, offering greater distance from single-family homes to the south. The maximum height of the residential buildings would be 45 feet, one story lower than the previous plan. The park, playground, dog park and trail will be open to the public.

The property owner is seeking investors. Halflants says the interest is high enough that he is confident they’ll soon break ground on the project.

Here are highlights from the latest design:

  • 180 market-rate residential units
  • 27 affordable residential units
  • A one-acre park with a playground and dog park
  • Slightly more than a half-a-mile-long walking/running trail, open to the public
  • A restaurant 
  • A pedestrian connection to Mill Terrace to the south for easy access 
  • Limited retail space
  • Tree preservation of all existing slash pines and all 14 grand oak trees 
  • A minimum of 12 tennis courts
  • Pickleball courts
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