The Historic Mira Mar Plaza Has Been Sold

Sarasota's Seaward Development recently bought the downtown property for $17.3 million.

By Kim Doleatto May 25, 2023

The Mira Mar plaza in downtown Sarasota.

Image: Kim Doleatto

The 100-year-old, Mediterranean Revival style Mira Mar plaza on Palm Avenue has been sold. The deal closed yesterday and commercial tenants of the plaza, roughly 40 business owners, received the news via email today.

It was sold by Mira Mar Plaza Associates, LTD—made up of a group of investors including local real estate investor Dr. Mark Kauffman—to Miramar Acquisition Company, LLC. The deed shows the local firm Seaward Development's address as the new owner's address.

The total price was $17.3 million. The historic property, located at 47 S. Palm Ave., was purchased in 1989 for nearly $1.8 million.

Today's email to tenants reads that the buyer "has plans to maintain the property for the foreseeable future." The management company Red Property Management, owned by the Kauffmans, will remain in its role for a "seamless" transition with "little impact on tenants."

Although a former attempt to purchase and demolish the historic plaza fell through last year, today's email goes on to say that the new owner "considers the Mira Mar Plaza a long-term asset while analyzing the best options for the future of the property" and that "options could include a mixed-use development and considerations for affordable housing."

Seaward has occupied a space in the plaza for five years and builds single-family homes, luxury condominiums and commercial projects. The firm built the 18-floor, 23-unit, luxury condo Epoch; the 16-unit condo project 7 One One Palm; and the 18-unit Park Residences of Lido Key.

The sale follows a whirlwind of events surrounding the beloved building.

The City of Sarasota’s Historic Preservation Board voted unanimously last year to deny Seaward's demolition permit that would have seen the Mira Mar plaza replaced with a 10-story, mixed-use commercial and residential project. Seaward’s plans for the property included two floors of retail fronting Palm Avenue, with a residential component set back behind the commercial space as an homage to the original look and design of the property when the Mira Mar Hotel stood there in the early 1900s.

A preliminary rendering of Seaward Development's proposed replacement for the plaza, presented to Sarasota’s Historic Preservation Board last year.

At the meeting, demolition applicants Matthew Leake and Patrick Dipinto III of  Seaward Development presented their proposal and findings. Engineers revealed extensive damage and neglect throughout the buildings (they are two buildings attached by a bridge), including undersized foundations, corroded structural wood wall studs, irregular framing and more. Repairs were estimated to cost roughly $22 million and take more than two years to complete, a time period during which tenants would have to vacate the property, the applicants said. They also pointed out safety concerns and that the cost of repairs would far exceed the value of the plaza.

Public speakers protested the demolition, many citing concerns over the potential loss of charm and character that set Sarasota apart from larger nearby metro areas. Local preservation experts also questioned the validity of the engineer's findings.

Seaward subsequently withdrew an appeal that would have gone before the City Commission, and the purchase of the plaza was halted altogether. 

Following that decision, tenants last year received an email stating that "the Mira Mar Plaza will continue under current ownership" and tenants received yet another update that “at some point in the near future, the landlord intends to pick up where Seaward left off in applying for a demolition permit.”

The email also indicated that “the landlord will continue to keep the building running in a safe manner (monitored closely by our professional structural engineers) to the extent it is reasonably fiscally prudent.”

The three-story Mira Mar plaza is currently zoned as “Downtown Core,” which allows owners to build up to 50 dwelling units per acre and as high as 10 stories.

For the potential future demolition of the building, the City of Sarasota Historic Preservation Board would be required to review an application. Dipinto of Seaward Development was not immediately available for comment.

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