Two high-rise city projects — a hotel and 10-story luxury apartment complex — to commence construction

Downtown Sarasota will be home to an Embassy Suites & Spa on U.S. 41 and new housing on Second Street

The Embassy Suites & Spa will be constructed across Tamiami Trail from The Vue Sarasota Bay and Westin hotel project. Roger Drouin photo
The Vue Sarasota Bay and Westin hotel project will be across Tamiami Trail from the Embassy Suites & Spa. Roger Drouin photo

The City of Sarasota’s Building Division issued permits last week for two significant projects in the heart of downtown Sarasota.

The first was a building permit for the $40 million Embassy Suites & Spa at 202 N. Tamiami Trail. The 18-story hotel will be constructed across U.S. 41 from The Vue Sarasota Bay and Westin hotel project, which is rising just to the south.

Joining the Westin and Ritz-Carlton, the Embassy Suites will become the third highly visible hotel on that busy stretch of road.

In a race to fill what Visit Sarasota County has described as a need for more hotel space to cater to higher volumes of tourists drawn to the area, The Embassy Suites will be one of several new hotels in downtown Sarasota.

The second city permit clears the way for demolition of the old United Way building on Second Street, the future site of the 2nd Street Apartments — 180 luxury rental units with ground floor retail and office space at 1445 Second St. Atlanta-based Carter Acquisitions LLC plans to build the complex on the prime acre of downtown property across from Whole Foods.

The parcel previously was the site of proposed affordable housing units, as indicated in plans put forth by two separate developers. Those plans have given way to the current project featuring rental units with less square footage, albeit with the “luxury” label, as described by Carter in its promotional materials.

“They are smaller units, ranging from 700 square feet to some that are larger, at over 2,000 square feet,” Jerome Hagley, executive vice president of Carter, told The Sarasota News Leader on Oct. 27. He added, “The average unit will be 1,150 square feet.”

Construction cranes will be arriving shortly at both sites, two more signs of Sarasota’s recent downtown building boom.

Embassy Suites & Spa

Jim Bridges, owner and chief executive of Jebco Ventures, told the News Leader crews will begin site preparation for the hotel over the next few weeks — including driving test pilings — and start construction within a month. The project will take about 18 months to complete.

The Embassy Suites & Spa will be constructed at a prominent corner in downtown Sarasota. Roger Drouin photo
The Embassy Suites & Spa will be constructed on the southeast corner of U.S. 41 and Fruitville Road in downtown Sarasota. Roger Drouin photo

The building that housed LUBE of Sarasota, a small cabinetmaker, was demolished at the beginning of 2015, clearing the .36-acre site for the new hotel tower.

Bridges has remained confident the parcel is an ideal site for a hotel. “I believe Fruitville Road gets probably as much traffic into Sarasota as any other road,” Bridges said. “We will be at the corner when the roundabout [at Tamiami Trail and Fruitville Road] is built. If there is an entry into Sarasota, this is it.”

Although the home of the Embassy Suites is a prominent one in downtown Sarasota, with an average rate of $175 a night [off peak season], the facility will not be comparable to the Ritz-Carlton in terms of expense. “We look and feel like a luxury hotel, but our prices will be very competitive,” Bridges noted.

The rooms will be about 550 to 650 square feet, he added, offering plenty of space for a vacationing family.

The tower will include a restaurant on the eighth floor, along with a pool and exercise facility. In addition to hosting traveling mothers and dads with children, the hotel will provide conference space on the ninth floor for business purposes.

The lobby and reception area will be located on the first floor.

Architecturally, the tower is a “very modern” building, Bridges pointed out.

“We believe Sarasota needs this type of hotel,” Bridges added, “and we are excited about it.”

Second Street luxury apartments

Plans put forth in 2012 by Sarasota entrepreneur Jesse Biter and, before him — in 2007 — by previous developer Leonard Garner, both encompassed affordable/obtainable units for the one-acre site at 1445 Second St.

Biter bought the property in 2013 and then sold it in March to a subsidiary of Carter Acquisitions for $3.04 million. Carter — a major developer of large mixed-use and rental developments, mainly in urban areas being revitalized — had different ideas about the site.

The new developer earned City Commission approval, on a 3-2 vote, for its plans in November 2014, in part, by arguing that building smaller units, though not necessarily “affordable” ones, would lead to reasonably priced rental options. Carter won the go-ahead to construct the complex under the guidelines of the Downtown Residential Overlay District (DROD). The DROD, which has expired, included a density bonus that enabled a developer to quadruple the number of residential units in an effort to spur the growth of affordable units in downtown Sarasota. The Carter project qualified for the increased density because of the Garner plan the city approved in 2007.

Carter and Hunt Investment Management are partnering to develop the 180-unit luxury rental apartment complex. Pinnacle Property Management, one of the country’s largest apartment managers and a Hunt affiliate, will manage the complex.

An artist's rendering shows the concept for the 2nd Street Apartments. Image courtesy Carter
An artist’s rendering shows the concept for the 2nd Street Apartments. Image courtesy Carter Acquisitions

Demolition will begin next week to clear way for the project, Hagley, the executive vice president at Carter, told the News Leader. Foundation work will start soon afterward, and construction will continue through next year, with the apartments ready for leasing in early 2017, he added.

A press release describes the complex:The 10-story, Class-A project will include one, two, three and four bedroom apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail. Amenities will include condominium-grade finishes, such as quartz countertops and stainless steel appliances. Other features include open floorplans, large windows, 10-foot ceilings, balconies, high speed internet wiring, as well as a 24-hour fitness center, resort-style swimming pool, clubroom and outdoor deck. The first three stories of the development will include secured parking for residents. Two hotel-style suites for tenants to rent for short-term guests will also be available.”

Hagley envisioned potential renters as professionals who work downtown, seasonal residents and couples selling their homes and down-sizing, with a desire to live in close proximity to restaurants, cultural attractions and other amenities downtown.

A flag in this aerial view shows the site of the former United Way building in downtown Sarasota. Image from Google Maps
A flag in this aerial view shows the site of the former United Way building in downtown Sarasota. Image from Google Maps

“Everything is right there,” Hagley noted of the location across from Whole Foods.

Plans filed with the city call for 180 apartments, nine accessory guest units, 17,410 square feet of ground-floor retail space and 21,000 square feet of office space.

Hagley told the News Leader rental rates have not been calculated yet.

Although there is a strong market for condominiums in Sarasota, a more recent shift in demand involves people who prefer renting instead of owning homes. “There is also a trend towards higher-end, luxury condominiums, where a person maintains a higher level of flexibility. We are seeing that,” Hagley said. The 2nd Street Apartments — a working name that will likely change, he added — will offer all the amenities and fixtures that one would find in a luxury condo unit downtown.

Demolition of the old United Way building is slated for next week, with the apartments set to be ready for leasing in early 2017.

Hagley noted that the development team has hired a local design firm, Hoyt Architects, and a local general contractor, Core Construction.

With projects ranging from student housing to a major riverfront mixed-use redevelopment called the “Banks” project in Cincinnati, Carter is considered one of the country’s leading real estate investment, development and advisory firms.

In addition to this project in downtown Sarasota, Carter is planning a 23-story residential tower with ground-floor retail space in downtown Tampa. That 262-foot-tall tower, at 911 and 915 N. Franklin Ave., is expected to have a total of 362 apartments.

Additionally, the firm recently constructed a 14-story office tower in the Orlando Central Business District.

Carter is constructing another apartment project in Ann Arbor, Mich. That $65 million development, Foundry Lofts, was designed to provide housing for both business professionals and students attending the University of Michigan who are seeking off-campus housing, according to project information. Units will rent for as low as $1,099 a month in the 14-story mixed-use development, according to the Foundry Loft’s Facebook page. The complex is leasing units for occupancy in the fall of 2016, the page notes.

But the project has not proceeded without controversy. According to an Ann Arbor news media account, it was approved on a split City Council vote, and many residents argued the 14-story building was out of character with the historic neighborhood surrounding it.