Dec. 3 Sarasota City Commission discussion planned on new issues related to proposed development of Marian Anderson Place site

New environmental assessment points to need for removal of soil from areas where buildings would be constructed, to eliminate worries about ‘settling’

A rendering shows plans for a vocational-technical training facility and industrial space on the Marian Anderson Place site. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

On May 7, the Sarasota City Commission voted unanimously to approve an Arlington, Texas, company’s proposal for a feasibility study regarding development on the Marian Anderson Place site in North Sarasota.

As part of the agreement, UrbanAmerica LLC would have 180 days to determine whether the former brownfield property could be transformed into an economically viable mix of uses. The company’s initial plan, as presented to the commission, called for about 4 acres of commercial, retail and office space; approximately 7.5 acres for a vocational-technical school and industrial park, with the latter described as “smart business incubator areas”; and about 1.5 acres of passive recreational space.

During the commission’s regular meeting on Nov. 19, City Attorney Robert Fournier won unanimous consensus of the board members to hold a discussion on Dec. 3 about UrbanAmerica’s proposal for another study to determine more details related to the site’s use as an unauthorized dumping ground from the 1940s through the 1960s.

In the meantime, Fournier asked for — and received — commission consensus to extend the due diligence period for UrbanAmerica until Dec. 3.

“There is a problem on the site with solid waste,” Fournier said, “as opposed to contaminants.”

Because of concerns that arose out of the investigation of the property — undertaken by the environmental firm Cardno in Clearwater — Fournier added that the company told city staff it appears 6 feet of soil would have to be dug out in areas where the company plans buildings, with at least 3 feet having to be removed from locations for other construction, such as parking lots. The action would be necessary to eliminate concerns about the “settling” of buildings because of construction and demolition debris and household trash remaining underground, Fournier reported.

These are questions that Cardno says another study could answer in regard to preparing areas of the Marian Anderson Place site for redevelopment. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Further, Cardno estimated that only 30% of the excavated soil would be suitable for reuse on the site, Fournier pointed out. The rest of the material, he said, would have to go to “a land disposal facility capable of accepting environmentally-impacted soil and debris,” according to an Oct. 11 Cardno letter to UrbanAmerica Senior Vice President Robert C. Farmer Jr.

The lower estimate for all the site preparation work was $7,378,805, Cardno wrote in that letter, Fournier said. The high estimate was $8,508,408.

These are details of the cost estimates for soil excavation and disposal from Cardno. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

However, Cardno also had suggested to UrbanAmerica that another study of the site — at a cost of about $40,450 — could determine areas where construction could be undertaken without the potential of soil removal, Fournier added.

“[A] combined geotechnical and environmental site evaluation is proposed that focuses on the soils and debris located beneath the areas where various one story and two story buildings are proposed,” says a Sept. 24 letter from Terry Griffin, senior project manager and hydrogeologist for Cardno, and Miles G. Ballogg, Brownfield and Economic Development Practice Group leader for Cardno.

The Oct. 11 letter from Cardno pointed out that UrbanAmerica provided it with “a conceptual design plan for the 13.5-acre site” that included the following:

  • One 28,000-square-foot, two-story office building.
  • One 49,420-square-foot, two-story office building.
  • One 49,000-square-foot, one-story shopping plaza building.
  • One 45,000-square-foot, one-story industrial building.
  • One detention pond (estimated at 50,000 square feet).

The letter added that “approximately 80% of the remaining 366,640 [square feet] of the property — [293,312 square feet] — “will be dedicated primarily to paved parking and roadways …”

During a meeting with city staff in early November, Fournier continued, UrbanAmerica representatives asked for an extension of the due diligence period, so they could address the issues with the commissioners.

A graphic provides details about the project UrbanAmerica proposed in May for the Marian Anderson Place site. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

That discussion came too late for an item to be put on the Nov. 19 City Commission agenda, Fournier pointed out, and the due diligence period was going to expire over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Therefore, Fournier continued, his solution was to ask the commission on Nov. 19 for a motion or consensus to extend the due diligence period to Dec. 3.

Commissioner Willie Shaw told Fournier that he believed the city hired Cardno to undertake studies of the Anderson Place site about five years ago. Those materials should be of help, Shaw added.

Those studies would be available for inclusion in the discussion, Fournier indicated. “That’s a fair point, yes.”

Fournier emphasized the necessity of board consensus on extension of the due diligence period. “We didn’t want to go out of contract.”

With nods, the commissioners agreed to his request.