The Bath & Racquet Fitness Club has sold again. Could this be the comeback?
Built in 1969, the club at 2170 Robinhood St., tucked behind Trader Joe’s on Tamiami Trail, was a beloved social hub for families for generations. They played tennis and racquetball, took lessons, swam outdoors and worked out in the fitness center. Although some still slide onto the outdoor courts behind the club to steal some tennis play, it's been dormant as two owners in the last two years had ambitions to develop it into a residential-commercial project.
The latest owner is Sarasota Springs LLC, which closed on the $15,350,000 sale on Jan. 7. There were roughly 11 other offers, according to Kevin Robbins who, along with Mitch Helmuth, both of Sarasota’s Harry E. Robbins Associates Inc., represented Mark Lucas, the developer who had purchased the club in 2020 for $5.5 million from previous owner Scott Olson. (Olson gave up in February 2020 when the Sarasota City Commission rejected his development proposal and ended up closing the club due to Covid-19.)
Sarasota Springs LLC will inherit the long-winded rezone process Lucas and his development team navigated that now allows for a mixed residential and commercial use project. After some nearby resident opposition and several iterations, the final plan for the revamped Sarasota Bath & Racquet Fitness Club was approved by city commissioners in November 2021.
The 13-acre site includes a 40,000-square-foot fitness facility, a junior Olympic swimming pool, 29 tennis courts, a restaurant and ample parking. Lucas adjusted the site layout to create a better transition between multifamily neighborhoods to the north, single-family homes to the south and commercial activity on U.S. 41 to the west.
Architect Michael Halflants of Halflants + Pichette led the design of the mixed-use community. His approved plan included 180 market-rate residential units, 27 affordable residential units, 45,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, a one-acre park with a playground, a dog park and a walking/jogging trail. (For more on that plan, along with pictures, click here.)
In July last year, city commissioners approved another 70 residential units to be added, allowing for a total of 277 units, increasing the value of the project amid a red hot residential real estate market driven by high demand and low inventory.
Although the new owners may make some marginal changes, part of the purchase conditions include maintaining the items listed above in addition to dedicating 10,000 square feet toward fitness space accessible to anyone who buys a membership.
After what it took to finalize a plan, Lucas sought a buyer who intended to retain the tennis and fitness center as part of the redevelopment concept. “Other development companies only wanted to demolish it,” says Robbins. One of the reasons that drove Lucas to sell included the requirement to build the project all at once. The cost to do that hovers around $200 million. The previous plan that was rejected by the city proposed to build it in phases, one building at a time.
The purchase represents a joint venture between Federal Finance Group, led by founder and CEO Tan Bahia, and Silver Sky Global Capital, led by founder and president Fabio Di Prima. Both firms invest in residential and commercial real estate development projects across Europe and North America and have offices in New York City and London, U.K.
Di Prima says his teams are already working to complete the design and permitting and expects to “hit the ground within the end of 2022.”
According to Robbins and Helmuth, Lucas plans on working on more infill projects in Sarasota similar to the Bath & Racquet.