Landmark Changes

By Hannah Wallace March 31, 2005

Those sultry summer nights spent licking chocolate-dipped ice cream cones at the old Dairy Queen on U.S. 301 in downtown Sarasota are numbered. Dr. Mark Kauffman, developer of the nearby Cityscape at Courthouse Centre, and a group of six investors have purchased the landmark ice cream store and hamburger joint and a small strip center just to the north.

"We're landbanking it for now," he says. "It's an incredible location, across from the new courthouse." Plans aren't definite yet, but Kauffman says the area is appropriate for office, retail and perhaps apartments or condos on upper floors. The property is in the city of Sarasota's proposed downtown edge zone, which, when approved, will limit Kauffman to a maximum of five floors. Kauffman says that's fine with him. He has no desire to build higher than five stories. "The sites are just too small," he says.

While the original ice cream hangout will be a memory, Kauffman says Dairy Queen's Blizzards and banana splits may yet survive. "We may be building another space for them," he says. If that happens, Dairy Queen would be part of a larger mixed-use project. Kauffman envisions creating a site plan next year and developing the entire property the following year.

Further west, adjacent to Burns Court, another landmark building and business will make way for a mixed-use condo tower. Lance Stahl, owner of the eclectic Sarasota Trading Company on Pineapple Avenue across from the Burns Court Cinema, says he received an offer too good to pass up. At press time, the sale price was not disclosed nor had it been recorded. The new owner, Phoenix Development, LLC, plans to build "10 mid-luxury condominium residences and 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space with indoor parking," says Arlette Jacob, the Re/Max Excellence broker representing both parties. "Phoenix expects to pre-sell all of the residential units prior to construction." Stahl is closing his home furnishings and accessories store and moving to Costa Rica.

Next door, Dick Dickinson of Dickinson Studios says he's had tempting offers as well, but says so far, "I'm in this for the long haul. It's a long-term investment. Nonetheless, if someone came along with an outlandish offer.well, everything's for sale." Across the street, Herald Square at Little Five Points is for sale at $2,250,000. The Mediterranean Revival landmark was built in 1925 by architect Dwight James Baum and was originally home to Privett's Drugs. The owner, Denise Kowal, who also has a business and a residence in the building, is selling the north half of the structure, which includes three retail units on the ground floor and seven apartments above for a total of 7,000 square feet. "The building is ready for some TLC," says realtor Ian Black. "The owner will remain."

Nearby, one of the most talked-about new projects is real estate broker Michael Saunders's proposed mixed-use retail, office and residential complex on a 1.67-acre site on Orange Avenue between Morrill and Laurel streets. Intended to serve as her brand-new headquarters, the site's early-stage plans included a 14-story building with 20,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and two towers totaling 180,000 square feet. "Tower A," according to preliminary plans, included a restaurant and a "sky park" open to the public.

But at press time, after discussions with Laurel Park residents, that plan was undergoing a second revision. Saunders says the project will still house her headquarters and keep retail along Orange Avenue. The number of residential units has not been finalized. Saunders has also had been talking to the city about providing spaces for public parking, but discussions were in very early stages.

Saunders' project would not be the neighborhood's first mixed-use high-rise. Under construction next door is the 14-story Kanaya, with 35 feng-shui residences and 4,700 square feet of commercial space facing Orange Avenue. Commercial tenants so far include Maple Orange Antiques, Endavo, a communications business, and Select Management Company.

Also at press time, the old dry cleaners at the corner of Ringling Boulevard and Pineapple had sold.

Under construction on Orange Avenue, at the corner of Ringling Boulevard, is Ringling Square, a five-story office building and four-story parking garage being developed by Sarasotan Doug Tibbets and partners. AmSouth Bank will anchor the building, which is expected to be completed in December 2005.

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