Developer Matthew Phillips of Illinois-based Integrated Development II filed preliminary applications in May for a seven-story “luxury senior living community” at 307 S. Orange Ave. Named after his mother-in-law, the project is called LaVerne, and it will be the first senior housing project in Sarasota’s downtown core.
“My wife and I have been coming down to Longboat Key for 35 years. I've always wanted to do something in downtown Sarasota. We did the Sheridan at Lakewood Ranch for Senior Lifestyle, but that's really a different market,” Phillips says. “About a year and a half ago, we started looking, and we're glad to have found what we think is the right spot.”
Plans are for the LaVerne to be a rental model facility. Phillips points out that its two main competitors, Plymouth Harbor and the Sarasota Bay Club, are purchase models, “and they're sold out,” he says. “They do a great job, but some people want the rental option. There's a real hole in that market.”
The 18.5-acre site comprises three connected parcels: 307 S. Orange Ave., 495 S. Orange Ave., and 1623 Laurel St. It’s bound by Morrill Street to the north, Orange Avenue to the west, Laurel Street to the south and Rawls Avenue to the east. The land is zoned downtown core and allows for a maximum height of 10 stories.
Because the property is within the boundaries of the Laurel Park overlay district, two community workshops were required: one before filing a site plan with the city of Sarasota and one after. Ahead of the initial workshop on June 3, the Laurel Park Neighborhood Association sent an email to its members highlighting some topics of interest pertaining to the development proposal. They included limiting mechanical noise, throughway traffic and construction staging during the build. Those concerns were also addressed by a petition the association put together with more than 200 signatures. Its president, Matthew Arcari, was happy with the developer’s response, as all three were addressed in the plans.
“The entrance is going to be one way only, and egress will also be one way only," Arcari said at the meeting. "They've positioned their noisemakers in the most northeast corner of the building, minimizing the noise. It won't face Rawls, which would cascade to residents.” At the second community workshop, he added, “We greatly appreciate the attention and sensitivity toward our main questions and look forward to having you as a neighbor.”
Indeed, the second workshop went off without a hitch on Wednesday evening, even with a last-minute increase in living units, bringing the total number to 37. The building will also include 20 memory-care units and 104 assisted-living units.
The ground level that fronts on Orange Avenue will have some spaces that will serve the general public like a coffee shop, a barbershop/beauty salon, and a physical therapy space. Inside the LaVerne, they will also connect to residents. Phillips says he also might incorporate an arts and crafts studio as well as a fitness center.
The only comments that expressed some opposition to the plans touched on the architectural style of the proposed renderings.
“I don't like the style," attendee Tatiana Markova said. "I was drawn to the neighborhood because it's historical, and this doesn't fit."
In response, Chris Gallagher of Hoyt architects, who designed the LaVerne, pointed to the diversity of styles in the surrounding area.
“We've got Burns Court, which is original Med-Rev, plus a lot of the wood frame vernacular in Laurel," he said. "Also, just to the north of us, we have a Sarasota School building. I don't think we intend to copy anything. When people look back on this building, it will be appropriate for its time. We respect the input and we'll be thinking about it."
The site is marketed by Michael Saunders & Company for $10.5 million and the project will cost roughly $75 million. Closing on the purchase agreement will occur once the City of Sarasota approves the plans. Phillips expects to break ground in the middle of next year, with a 20-month construction schedule, and hopes to be done in mid-2024.
As for interested renters?
"We'll start a formal reservation process around the end of this year. It's too early to tell what the range for rates will be," he says.