Regional president of GreenPointe estimates it could take up to 36 months to complete the roundabout; permitting for the first Quay construction to be pursued concurrently with that
Because a roundabout at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Fruitville Road is a crucial element in the planning for the 14.65-acre Quay Sarasota project, the developer has agreed to front the funding for it and then have the City of Sarasota reimburse the expense.
That will enable the roundabout to be completed “at least five years before the state would ever have gotten around to it,” Charles Bailey III of the Williams Parker law firm in Sarasota told the City Commission on Oct. 17, referring to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
Bailey was among the representatives of GreenPointe Communities LLC of Jacksonville, the developer of the Quay Sarasota, to address the board during a public hearing that night.
The earliest the state funding for the roundabout will be available is July 1, 2018, Bailey pointed out.
It probably will take 30 to 36 months to complete the structure, Rick Harcrow of GreenPointe told the board, adding that the roundabout “would be finished and operational before the first resident moves into [the initial] building.” While work is underway on the roundabout, he noted, his team will be pursuing the permitting and approval of the first of the nine blocks of the Quay.
On its first reading that night, the City Commission did approve the proposed development agreement with GreenPointe, as well as two street right of way vacations the firm is seeking for the mixed-use development.
Commissioner Susan Chapman opposed both of the latter motions, while Mayor Willie Shaw joined her in voting “No” on updating a previous ordinance that conditionally vacated six segments of right of way. A staff memo explained that the city never issued the standard Notice of Effective Date of Street Vacation for those sections because the previous owner of the property never applied for a building permit; therefore, the conditions were not fulfilled.
“The purpose of the vacations is to consolidate the property in exchange for public pedestrian and vehicular easements along the new proposed street grid,” the memo said.
The second reading of the necessary resolutions has been scheduled for the evening of Dec. 5. As City Attorney Robert Fournier and Bailey both pointed out, this is the first time the city has tackled this type of General Development Plan allowed under the City Code.
The project will encompass up to 695 residential units, 175 hotel rooms, 38,972 square feet of office space and 189,050 square feet of commercial space. The first phase of the Quay is expected to be completed in 2018, City Engineer Alexandrea DavisShaw told the board. The full build-out is not anticipated until 2020.
“The application before you does not represent the maximum density” allowed under the current zoning, Bailey said.
None of the City Commission’s three motions last week approved specific site plans. Every one of the designs for the nine blocks will undergo public hearings before the city Planning Board after they are completed, Fournier and Bailey explained. Those blocks will be 0.75 acres each, Bailey noted. In contrast, he added, The Vue Sarasota Bay at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Gulfstream Avenue sits on 2.89 acres. “This is what I call like an urban Palmer Ranch,” Bailey said of the Quay plan.
“This was a pragmatic approach,” Fournier said: Because of the size of the property, the developer has challenges in designing what ultimately will work best.
One other key facet of the Quay Sarasota will be its inclusion of the Belle Haven, which dates to 1926; the Belle Haven was the first structure to win historic designation in the city, staff noted. The building will remain in its present location, Bailey stressed.
“It’s better to keep it there because it’s so fragile,” city Planner Lucia Panica noted.
“It was emphasized to us more than once, the importance of the Belle Haven,” Bailey said. It will be renovated as part of the first phase of the project. “It looks like a set of a zombie apocalypse movie now on the inside,” Bailey added.
The Quay site is bounded by the Boulevard of the Arts, U.S. 41, the boat basin and Second Street. Two other significant features of the project will be a Bayfront Multi-Use Recreational Trail (MURT) and a Scenic MURT.
The Scenic MURT will connect the Bayfront MURT to the waterfront, Fournier said. The goal is to encourage public access to the water, Panica pointed out.
During the Oct. 17 staff presentation, DavisShaw explained that FDOT “did commit to a two-lane roundabout” at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Fruitville Road that would be integrated into whatever final design the City Commission approves for Fruitville. (Staff has held public meetings to seek comments on proposals to improve the connection of downtown to areas north of the road and to make the corridor between U.S. 301 and U.S. 41 more attractive.)
He and other representatives of GreenPointe have made two trips to the FDOT District One office in Bartow, Bailey said, “to talk about the specific timing of that funding being made available” for the roundabout. The most recent trip was the previous week, he added.
The city already is planning two-lane roundabouts at the intersections of 10th Street and 14th Street on U.S. 41, he noted, and FDOT is considering a roundabout at the Gulfstream Avenue intersection as well.
The GreenPointe proposal also incorporates a “free-flow slip lane” to allow northbound traffic to head east more easily on Fruitville via the roundabout, he added.
Before the Dec. 5 public hearing, Bailey said, facets of the Fruitville roundabout plan should be tied up with FDOT.
The design of the Quay
The goal with the design of the Quay Sarasota is to create “a vibrant district that’s live/work/play,” Tim Baker of the Baker Barrios architectural firm in Orlando told the City Commission.
Among the facets of the development will be a significant amount of space for what the firm is calling the “community family room,” he said, referring to the emphasis on public access.
In response to a question from Commissioner Liz Alpert, Harcrow said that even though the property is privately owned, people will be able to enter the site 24 hours a day.
Moreover, the design will encompass pedestrian-friendly “complete streets,” Baker continued, and GreenPointe will be “looking carefully at the local retailers as well as the appropriate national chains” as it “casts” tenants for its retail space.
“We want this place to be the center of gravity” for not just the neighborhood but for the community as well, Baker added.
And while the previous concept for the site — proposed by the former owner, the Irish American Management Services Ltd. — called for 18-story towers that would block off public views of the water, GreenPointe has taken a very different approach, Charles Bell of Baker Barrios told the board. The maximum height will be 14 stories, he said, and “stepped-down” buildings will be designed to allow for sight lines.
Apartments and condominiums are planned for the corridor along U.S. 41, Bell continued, with retail and/or fitness centers, possibly art galleries and other shops on the ground floors.
A large public plaza will be constructed next to the Belle Haven, he noted, with plans also calling for an outdoor amphitheater for concerts and other events.
In response to a question from Vice Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie, Bailey said Block 6 — in the southwest corner of the property — probably will be the first one planned, and it likely will have “100-ish condominiums.”
Because the project will unfold over a number of years, GreenPointe’s Harcrow explained, changes may be made “every step of the way.”
Harcrow also noted that GreenPointe and Ritz-Carlton representatives have talked about the potential of continuing the north/south access through the Quay property all the way to the Ritz. Litigation over ownership of the drainage ditch at the southern boundary of the Quay will have to be resolved first, however, Harcrow said.
During the public comments portion of the hearing, former City Commissioner Eileen Normile was among several speakers to urge caution because of traffic anticipated with the Quay. “I must admit that the project really looks beautiful,” she told the board. Nonetheless, she added, “It would seem premature to begin vacating any part of the traffic grid [for it]. … The one thing we’ve learned from the Vue is that you can’t undo it.”
Testimony from city staff and the GreenPointe team indicated that the traffic review undertaken in November 2015 in conjunction with the new plans estimated an additional 420 daily trips associated with the Quay.
Kate Lowman, a representative of the new group STOP!, told the board it needs to have staff undertake a citywide traffic study before agreeing to the development plan.
GreenPointe is in compliance with the current requirements for concurrency, Bailey responded, and it has undertaken a traffic analysis of the project. The focus of the Quay is on multimodal transportation, he said.
Earlier city rights of way were vacated as part of the 2007 Irish American plan for the property, Bailey pointed out. The GreenPointe proposal is seeking additional rights of way to allow the Fruitville roundabout and one of the MURTs to proceed, he added, emphasizing the traffic flow the project design will encompass.
Assistant City Engineer Daniel Ohrenstein told the board that after the Fruitville roundabout has been completed, the level of congestion will be comparable to the current situation. “It’s just going to be a different style of congestion, if you can call it that. … [With a roundabout], it’s more of a continuous flow. … You don’t have that acceleration and deceleration … [but] there still will be long queues.”