March 7 public hearing set for proposed redevelopment of Sarasota Square Mall property

Planning Commission meeting to begin at 5 p.m. in Sarasota

This is an aerial view of the Sarasota Square Mall property. Image courtesy Sarasota County

On Thursday, March 7, the Sarasota County Planning Commission is scheduled to conduct a public hearing on the application to redevelop the Sarasota Square Mall property with new commercial and residential structures.

The site is located east of the intersection of U.S. 41 and Beneva Road, south of Sarasota Square Mall Boulevard, and west of Potter Park Drive, a county staff report points out. The property encompasses approximately 91 acres, the report adds. The applicant proposes to add a vacant 2.8-acre parcel to the site, which would bring the total number of acres to about 94, the report says.

As a county-designated Development of Regional Impact, the report notes, the Sarasota Square Mall property is “entitled for up to 1,002,983 square feet of commercial uses.” The applicant proposes reducing the square feet of commercial uses to 692,457 square feet and adding 1,200 residential units “to accommodate a mixed-use redevelopment of Sarasota Square Mall,” the report points out.

County staff has stipulated that the applicant will build a minimum of 500 residential units, and the applicant has agreed to that, the report notes.

Those units will be adjacent to Sarasota Square Boulevard, the Binding Development Concept Plan shows.

Additionally, the report explains that the project team informed staff that “there may be communal space located on the first floor of the apartment building(s), but access to these area(s) will be limited to residents only.”

This is the Binding Development Concept Plan for the project. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As shown in the formal application submitted to county staff in August 2023, the applicant is 8201 Sarasota LLC, whose principal is Michael K. Burns, president and CEO of Torburn Partners, a privately owned real estate investment firm based in Northbrook, Illinois.

The March 7 meeting will begin at 5 p.m. in the County Commission Chambers of the County Administration Center located at 1660 Ringling Blvd. in downtown Sarasota.

The Sarasota Square hearing is listed as No. 6 on the agenda, according to the advisory board’s webpages on the county website. The hearing will entail multiple requests, the county Planning Division executive summary of the agenda item notes, including rezoning and Special Exception petitions.

The applicant is seeking to have all of its property rezoned to Commercial General (CG).

“The entire mall will be torn down and redeveloped,” the staff report points out, with the exception of the JCPenney store, the AMC Theater and Costco, “which will remain on site in their current locations and structures.”

The applicant also has indicated to county staff that the new commercial/office space tenants may be grocery stores, medical offices, and retailers.

The development will be required to comply with the following design standards, the report continues:

  • The maximum height of the residential structures cannot exceed 85 feet above the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood elevation, including in-structure parking.
  • The maximum height of the commercial/office structures cannot exceed 50 feet above the FEMA flood elevation.
  • All structures exceeding 35 feet in height must be set back from the north boundary — along Sarasota Square Boulevard — a minimum of 25 feet or one-half of the building height, whichever is greater.
  • Landscape buffers will have an average height of 10 feet along the perimeter of public roadways and 15 feet along the boundary adjacent to the Park East Mobile Home Park.

Further, the applicant is seeking Special Exception approval for a bar with outdoor entertainment after 10 p.m. or outdoor dining after 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and after 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; indoor entertainment after 10 p.m.; outdoor recreation; “[s]pecial events in conjunction with an approved outdoor recreation use”; and a garden center with outside merchandise, the staff report notes.

Those “uses may operate within the Commercial/Office areas” from Sunday through Thursday until midnight and on Fridays, Saturdays, and holiday eves until 1 a.m., the report adds. However, they will be governed by the county’s Air and Sound Pollution and Noise Ordinance.

“To mitigate the potential impacts from special exception uses in this area of the project site,” the report continues, “the Applicant has proffered to not allow any special exception uses, except for outdoor recreation,” within 100 feet of the Park East Mobile Home Park. Further, the applicant has proffered that no outdoor recreation will be allowed within 50 feet of that mobile home park.

The report cites the potential construction of a fitness center with an outdoor swimming pool within that 50-foot area.

Exchanges of ideas

Before the formal application was submitted to county staff last summer, and subsequent to that, the report points out, staff and the development team met multiple times to discuss ideas about the layout of the improvements, especially in regard to the long-term goals for the project, pedestrian connectivity, and the upgrading of the infrastructure. As a result, the report continues, the applicant has created “a larger space for social gatherings” and has moved “the focal point green space area from the eastern side of the project site to the center of the site. “Staff recommended the Applicant consider lining the focal area with a variety of restaurants where people could sit outside and eat,” the report notes.

That open space will comprise 10.4 acres, county documents indicate.

The top graphic is the earlier version of the project layout. The bottom version shows the changes made following discussions between the applicant’s team and county staff. Images courtesy Sarasota County

Yet another staff-recommended stipulation is that “Big Box Retailers” be allowed only in Blocks 1 through 3 of the Binding Development Concept Plan. However, the report says, “If an existing ‘Big Box Retailer’ chooses to sell, another ‘Big Box Retailer’ may build in its place; no structure greater than 60,000 square feet can be constructed anywhere else on the project site. The result is one ‘Big Box Retailer’ per Block, limiting the number of [such retail operations] to three for the project. The Applicant has agreed to this stipulation.”

One other facet of the plans is an 8-foot-wide, multi-use trail extending east from U.S. 41 onto the property, the report explains. “Residents living on the west side of US 41 had concerns about how to safely cross US 41 and access the project site as a pedestrian,” the report adds. Residents have expressed support for that trail, the report says.