Going Up

By Hannah Wallace February 28, 2006

After decades of stasis, Ringling Boulevard between U.S. 301 and Orange Avenue is booming. Three big projects are either under way or newly completed, promising to alter Ringling's status as the relatively sleepy residential and professional artery between Main Street and the Laurel Park neighborhood.

Already completed is Ringling Square, a five-story, 45,000-square-foot building at the southeast corner of Ringling Boulevard and Orange Avenue, whose major tenants will be AmSouth Bank and FanZ Enterprises, a sports merchandising firm. Mark Sultana of DSDG, who served as lead project designer, worked with developer Douglas Tibbetts and builder Kellogg & Kimsey to create a neoclassical design capable of "mimicking and complementing the Federal Building across the street," he says.

Thanks in part to its two large-scale tenants, Ringling Square had by late last year been completely leased out, at a rate of $30 per square foot.

Rivo at Ringling, developed by Piero Rivolta and being built by Kraft Construction, is a 15-story residential tower scheduled for completion in October 2006. Located at the northwest corner of Osprey Avenue and Ringling Boulevard, the tower will have 106 units arranged around a glass-covered atrium. Fourteen of those units are 3,000-square-foot penthouses. As of December, each of the smaller units and all but six of the penthouses had been sold. "We promote it as a great place to live, because it's only a few feet from Main Street," says project manager Gary Johnson. "Ringling's an attractive address."

Two office buildings fronting Ringling are part of the project; one is reserved for Rivo operations, the other is available for lease, and there will be a Flagship National Bank branch on the corner. Johnson says retail space of about 8,400 square feet also will be included, but it's too early to tell what might go in and at what rate, although restaurants and clothing retailers are possibilities.

Rivo eschews the longstanding enthusiasm for Mediterranean-Revival architecture. Designed by The ADP Group from a concept by Renzo Rivolta, the developer's son, Rivo's salient design feature is huge oval windows that make reference to the Rivoltas' yacht-building background and contribute, in Johnson's words, to the building's "clean lines" and "slightly modern flavor."

Atrium at Ringling, on the other hand, on the south side of Ringling Boulevard between Osprey and Orange avenues, designed by William Thorning Little, fits squarely into the Med-Rev mode. The 17-story tower will break ground in a matter of months and is slated to contain 45,000 square feet of office space, 4,500 square feet of retail and 88 residential condos. The commercial spaces will sell for $350 per square foot.

Developer Leonard Garner will build two small parks and a pedestrian walk from Laurel Street to Ringling Boulevard in an effort to meld the project into the surrounding neighborhoods. Seven two-story townhouses will provide a buffer, inasmuch as possible, between the tower and the neighborhood.

Upscale restaurants, clothing stores and financial institutions are being courted for the retail space, says commercial real estate broker John Harshman of Harshman & Company. "There are different kinds of energy with these businesses," he says, "and we just want to make sure that what we get there is compatible with the building and with the neighborhood."

No additional new projects are currently slated for Ringling Boulevard, although interest in the area continues. Harshman, in considering Rivo and The Atrium, says, "I think the significant point is that all these properties are residentially based; that really is the dog, and the mixed-use commercial component is the tail." He points to the post office and the Verizon building as disruptions to any attempt to make Ringling a retail destination. "There won't be a critical mass of retail to change Ringling Boulevard," he says.

Ringling will remain overwhelmingly residential and professional, which is not to say it will remain quiet. "Think about it," says Harshman, "you'll have more activity, you'll have more life."

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