Next up: Nokomis

By Hannah Wallace October 31, 2006

Developer Henry Rodriguez hopes to do for Nokomis what his Wal-Mart development did for Osprey: Revitalize a blighted commercial corridor near some of the most expensive residential real estate in south Sarasota County.

Instead of a big-box retailer, though, Rodriguez is planning a 30- to 100-room hotel, 50,000 square feet of retail and office space and 39 condos on the northwest corner of Albee Farm Road and U.S. 41. The corner marks the entrance to Nokomis Beach and the southern entrance to Casey Key, one of the priciest slivers of beachfront in all of Florida.

"We now have two abandoned gas stations with septic tanks as the gateway to Nokomis Beach and Casey Key," Rodriguez says.

He's hoping his project, which had not been named at press time, along with Sarasota-based Finergy Development's plans for a 91-room hotel on the opposite corner of Albee Road, will revitalize the flagging Nokomis business district.

Rodriguez bought the land last year for $3.3 million. The gas station on the property had been closed for a year, but the one on the Finergy site had been abandoned for more than a decade. Like many residents, Rodriguez assumed there were environmental problems. "I thought there had to be something wrong if no one bought it," Rodriguez says. But the buried gas tanks had long been removed.

There was a misperception about the area's demographics, too. Most of the development in Nokomis is low-density and suburban, but that's been changing as new condominiums rise on nearby Blackburn Pointe Road and on Roberts Bay, where the Dona Bay Marina and Honoluana Tiki Bar used to be.

With waterfront restaurants and motels feeling the pinch of property taxes and insurance, Rodriguez believes that in a few years, beach lodging will be a memory. Just a mile from the water, Rodriguez thinks an upscale hotel and five-star restaurant will capture those visitors.

"We're dealing with whether it's going to be a boutique hotel with fewer rooms or a high-end hotel with more," Rodriguez says. "I envision a coffee shop and rooftop gardens on the 39 residential units."

Rodriguez says he won't break ground for three years. He plans to sell the development rights, just as he did with his $250-million Bay Street Village & Town Center mixed-use project in Osprey after getting it through the approval process.

"People are still going to want to come to Florida," Rodriguez says. "And we'll provide a more luxurious experience" than the small motels now on the beach.

Rodriguez is also developing a 1,950-home development along S.R. 681 in Nokomis that includes a mix of homes and condos, as well as about 240,000 square feet of space for shops, offices and community buildings.

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