Leading Question

By Hannah Wallace August 31, 2004

True, Sarasota Quay's Irish owner and developer hasn't been in town lately, admits Coldwell Banker realtor Jim Hart about Patrick Kelly. But he's been busy. He and his partners have closed on the property and are "diligently pursuing their master plan," according to Hart. Kelly's staff has been meeting with city planners and residents over the past several months to understand what Sarasota really wants.

Judging from the drastic changes in the initial proposal, Kelly has determined Sarasota wants something much smaller. Jane Robinson, the city of Sarasota's director of planning, says Kelly's people-including his Coral Gable architect John Nichols-met with her, city manager Mike McNees and planner John Berg recently to show their latest plan.

Kelly has downsized his initial five condo towers of 24 stories each to three towers, each 18 stories. "Every time they talked about the [24-story] residential towers we said we will absolutely not support something that high," says Robinson "We just adopted the downtown code." (The code limits buildings to 18 stories.)

So far, Kelly is proposing 75,000 square feet of retail, says Robinson, but not much else has been decided. "They don't have it figured out yet," she says. Robinson thinks Kelly's retail will probably be more upscale-attracting a department store, such as "a mini Nordstroms"-than Main Street's, which she predicts will remain a shopping district of small specialty boutique stores. "The buildings downtown aren't large enough for anything else," she says.

No conference center is in the plans at this point, she says. The historic Belle Haven office building is included, but the fate of the two-story condominiums near U.S. 41 is still up in the air. Kelly has made the condo owners an offer, but no one's acted on it. If residents don't want to sell, Kelly will develop around them.

The Sarasota Hyatt is also absent in the new plans. According to Bruce Franklin of ADP, Hyatt president Charles Githler says too much money has already gone into renovating the hotel to affordably reconfigure it.

Robinson says the most exciting part of the plan to date is the look for the east and west sides of U.S. 41, from Sixth Street to just south of Fruitville Road. Right now, a pending development agreement between the city and the Ritz-Carlton to build a right turn lane all the way to Gulfstream may mean some properties will be taken by eminent domain. But Kelly is also considering buying surrounding properties, to create an enticing retail district that would tie into downtown. Robinson says it will be a challenge getting some of the owners to sell, but the look-along with the approved roundabout at Fruitville-is a "fabulous" entrance to downtown.

Kelly will probably be submitting his master plan to the city at the end of the year, and the team hopes to break ground next summer. -Susan Burns

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