Modern Commerce

By Hannah Wallace April 30, 2008

The Fruitville Forum retail complex is rising like a jazz riff amid the white noise of fast food and drugstore chains at the southwest corner of Fruitville and Beneva roads. In an era when longtimers lament the loss of so many Sarasota School of Architecture buildings to the wrecking ball, native David Walters decided to celebrate the style in a striking mixture of concrete and glass.

The 24,000-square-foot modernist complex designed by Guy Peterson consists of four buildings with varied rooflines accented in purple and chartreuse. The L-shaped lot wraps around a Walgreens and a Dodge’s food store, offering frontages on both Beneva and Fruitville. A 3,800-square-foot bank structure with a covered drive-through faces Fruitville, while another 5,000-square-foot building overlooking a retention pond is yet to be leased. Five 1,350-square-foot suites will face Beneva with their own entrances and parking. A spa and salon are building out the fourth building.

The $4 million redevelopment might not have happened had the Walters family not owned the property for more than 20 years. Longtime contractor Glenn “Buck” Walters built the BB&T bank building at U.S. 41 and Bahia Vista in the 1970s, and his son, David, grew up amid the work of Sarasota School architects.

“You don’t get many opportunities where you have land you’ve owned for a long time. We developed it and we redeveloped it. I felt the Sarasota School of Architecture tradition needed to be continued, and who else is going to do it?” says Walters, president of Tenth Way Corporation.

“It’s a nice opportunity to take this modern language and show it can be successful for commercial as well as residential,” says architect Peterson. “Fruitville Forum is a little bit more literal in the sense that it has a more Miesian [modern architecture pioneer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe] feel to it. It has a very simple language with steel columns and solid, floating roofs over the doors. Each building has its own unique roofscape and footprint. The triangular forms create more movement. They also become iconic for the building, identifying elements.”

Even the signage—floating planes that hang suspended beneath the rooflines—echo the theme. Walters is shopping for a modern sculpture for the 40-foot-by-40-foot traffic island to complement the buildings. Artist Ron Genta designed the color scheme to complement Peterson’s signature chartreuse. Peterson is principal architect, Joe Kelly of his firm is project manager and Zirkelbach Construction is the builder. Sue Ault of Ault Realty Advisors is the leasing agent.

The architecturally appealing infill project didn’t have a clean ride through the approval process. Walters says he lost two banks, several retail tenants and $300,000 in construction interest due to a year of regulatory delays over replacing sewer lines under the road. “The city and the FDOT got into a turf war,” he says. They managed to call a truce when Walters wrote a check to replace the lines when Fruitville is eventually resurfaced.

The space will rent for $21 per square foot to $23 per square foot triple net. Walters is seeking other local tenants who will appreciate and benefit from the modern design.

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