Lido Sandcastle Resort – Lido Key

Lido Sandcastle

Plans to transform the aging Sandcastle Resort at Lido Beach — long known as the Helmsley Sandcastle — into a luxury contemporary resort were rubber-stamped by the Sarasota City Commission this week.

The commission unanimously approved plans and a rezoning request to redevelop the 176-room hotel, built in 1953, into a flashy four- or five-star, 304-room resort spanning two curved towers that will be eight and nine stories tall. The amenities are expected to include valet parking, a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, 5,000-square-foot junior ballroom, 7,000 square feet of meeting space, a spa, private pool with cabanas and a restaurant and bar that will be open to the public.

The planned resort, which will keep the same moniker, will replace its aging and significantly smaller predecessor on the roughly six-acre beachside site on Ben Franklin Drive near Lido’s south end. Built in 1953 and expanded in the ’60s, the resort is one of the oldest beachfront hotels in Southwest Florida.

It was time for a major face lift, project representatives said.

“This is the only remaining obsolete hotel of this magnitude on Lido Beach,” said John Patterson, a lawyer representing the project. “It’s desperately in need of being torn down and starting over again.”

The existing hotel has the unique distinction of having once been owned by a multimillionaire Maltese dog named “Trouble,” who was bequeathed the hotel by his and the resort’s longtime owners, New York billionaires Harry and Leona Helmsley. But after the Helmsleys and eventually “Trouble” died, it briefly appeared the hotel would be sold and turned into luxury condominiums, much to the chagrin of local tourism officials who wanted one of the few remaining beachfront hotels to stay.

That became reality when a Delray Beach hotel group that also owned the Longboat Key Club purchased the property in early 2014 for $27.4 million, according to property records. They then announced the hotel would remain, re-branded as the Sandcastle Resort at Lido Beach.

“My vision for the Sandcastle is to be an exciting, unique, fresh and alluring experience, both for guests and residents of the area,” said architect James Wurst of Coral Gables-based Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates.

Before granting approval, several commissions expressed concerns that traffic could back up onto Benjamin Franklin Drive and that parking could be inadequate.

“If this hotel is what it claims to be, parking is going to be a problem,” Commissioner Shelli Freeland Eddie said.

City staff and developers assured the commission its mandatory valet will keep cars moving and the resort will have 601 parking spaces — 19 more than the city requires. Plus, more people use car services such as Uber and Lyft to get around and other hotels in the area typically provide free transportation around town, should guests at other lodging attend an event at the redesigned Sandcastle Resort at Lido Beach, project representatives said.

Developers still don’t have an estimated cost for the likely pricey project. They expect the design and permitting process to last up to two years, with construction taking at least 18 months. The resort will be operated by Delray Beach-based Ocean Properties, which owns more than 100 hotels in North America, including Lido Beach Resort.

Sarasota Herald Tribune November 21, 2018

Kolter Group Begins on Ritz-Carlton Residences Tower

Ritz-CarltonThe Kolter Group has officially begun construction of the Ritz-Carlton Residences condominium tower in downtown Sarasota, which its backers contend will be the “pinnacle of Sarasota living.”

The 73-unit waterfront tower, adjacent to the 18-story Ritz-Carlton Sarasota hotel and condos and part of the 15-acre Quay Sarasota mixed-use project, is scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of 2020.

To date, 29 of the residences in the SB Architects-designed tower have either been reserved or sold, generating $105 million in sales, says John Harper, a Kolter Urban senior project manager.

“This is going to be the most magnificent luxury building on the west coast of Florida,” says Harper, during a morning ground breaking ceremony on site. “For residents, it will be an indelible experience.”

The residences, measuring 3,200 square feet to 6,100 square feet, exclusive of terrace space, will feature private elevators and “flow through” views of the water and the city’s skyline. Each is priced from $2.5 million to $5 million.

In addition, each unit will have access to 24-hour concierge services affiliated with the 266-room Ritz-Carlton Hotel, together with amenities like the resort’s beach club on Lido Key and 18-hole golf course near Lakewood Ranch. Owners also will be able to join the resort’s Members Club.

“The quality services being provided are really a large part of what’s driving this project forward,” says Michael Saunders, founder and CEO of real estate brokerage Michael Saunders & Co., the listing agent for the tower.

“Every day will be a red-carpet day at the Ritz-Carlton Residences,” adds Saunders, whose firm also sold the condo units associated with the hotel nearly two decades ago. “What does red carpet mean? It means the best of the best.”

The building’s amenities will include a resort-style swimming pool, fitness center, clubhouse, pool bar, demonstration kitchen and private dog park.

Rick Harcrow, regional president of Jacksonville-based GreenPointe Communities, says the new Ritz-Carlton Residences will be a “signature building” that will be the “most special parcel of this entire project.”

“I can’t think of two better brands to launch the Quay Sarasota than Kolter and the Ritz-Carlton,” Harcrow says of the $1 billion, mixed-use Quay.

Kolter acquired the roughly one-acre tract for the Ritz-Carlton Residences earlier this year for $19.3 million.

“Sarasota is a city that deserves the very best,” says Bob Vail, Kolter Urban’s president. “The Ritz-Carlton Residences will be the next chapter in luxury living here.”

Observer Sarasota, September 13, 2018

Hotel Laurent to Deliver Luxury Experiences in Downtown Sarasota

Hotel LaurentHotel Laurent will be uniquely Sarasota and decidedly exceptional in every way.

For L. Ronald S. Gray, a decades-long vision of creating an incomparable luxury hotel is coming to fruition in downtown Sarasota. Hotel Laurent, his 10-story, 140-room passion project, is pending approval at 20 N. Washington Blvd. To be built in conjunction with Sarasota-based Hoyt Architects and Gilbane Building Company, and internationally-recognized design firm, Cooper Carry, the boutique hotel will revitalize the east end of downtown’s Main Street, while offering discerning travelers a level of service and accommodations unrivaled in the region.

Gray was the sole bidder at $3.3 million last month for the nearly 1-acre, county-owned parking lot at 20 N. Washington Blvd., the northeast corner of the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Main Street. The former New York investment banker who has visited Sarasota since 2002 said he had looked for more than a year for the right location for the boutique hotel.

“We’re presenting a new take on luxury as well as the execution of elegant service — five-star with a smaller footprint,” he said in a news release. “Our goal is to not only re-energize the eastern tip of Main Street but to resonate with those who demand the very best.

Local ownership will allow for an innovative approach to hospitality not mandated by a corporate handbook and focused on individually tailored experiences. All aspects of the brand will exude European-inspired opulence, from the lavish detail and styling to the attention to service and amenities. Preliminary plans include world-class dining options, a spa and gym, and a private concierge floor, club and rooftop pool.

“Hotel Laurent is the culmination of a lifetime of travel and a love for Sarasota,” said Gray. “We’re presenting a new take on luxury as well as the execution of elegant service – Five-Star with a smaller footprint. Our goal is to not only re-energize the eastern tip of Main Street, but to resonate with those who demand the very best. Hotel Laurent will be uniquely Sarasota and decidedly exceptional in every way.”

Preliminary plans for Hotel Laurent — Gray’s first name — include dining options, a spa and gym, and a private concierge floor, club and rooftop pool, according to the news release. Construction is planned to begin next year, with completion targeted for the fourth quarter of 2020.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Tampa Bay Newswire, August 28, 2018

Work Begins on Sarasota Quay – Downtown Sarasota Real Estate

A new Sarasota Quay is underway. Finally.

Long-awaited bayfront development of residential, hotel and business units breaks ground.

Sarasota Quay

The developer’s goal is creating a place that will please the public and engage the waterfront. Those are some of the intangible goals of GreenPointe Communities LLC.

On Wednesday afternoon under mostly blue skies, the Jacksonville-based company staged an infrastructure groundbreaking ceremony at the 15-acre Quay Sarasota Waterfront District site with city commissioners and the mayor, Planning Board members, Booker High School students and others.

Before GreenPointe president Grady Miars addressed the gathering, he described the project in a Herald-Tribune interview.

The renovation and repurposing of the historic 1925 Belle Haven Apartment building on the site is a pivotal piece of the project, which is entitled to 695 residential units, 175 hotel rooms, 38,972 square feet of office space and 189,050 square feet of commercial space. The overall project represents a $1 billion investment from GreenPointe and other investors.

The Belle Haven, Miars said, is “considered to be the crown jewel of the development.”

“Right now, we’ve been actively working on the interior components, making sure that it’s suitable and stable, and then we’re going to refurbish it,” he said.

Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin called the Belle Haven “one of the greatest buildings that has ever graced the bayfront.”

Initially, GreenPointe offices will be in the refurbished Belle Haven. Ultimately, though, the idea is to turn the structure into the central piece of the Quay, Miars said, “so it will be part of our placemaking effort.”

The project also calls for a public park leading to the waterfront, where docks will be available.

“What you’ll see in our development and in our infrastructure is it’s going to invite the public in to be able to utilize not only our central Quay and the facilities there, the retail, and also engage to the waterfront,” Miars said. “We feel that is very important.”

Rick Harcrow, GreenPointe’s regional president, said, “We dedicated ourselves to creating a special place.”

The company is coordinating plans with The Bay project directly to the north, the Sasaki design team and city officials. “We’re very much in support of what’s happening to our north,” he said of the bayfront redevelopment effort. “What’s happening around us has really evolved and has come a long way.”

Barwin appreciates the fact that the two major projects are coming to life together. “We’re especially excited it’s (the Quay) moving in tandem with the Bay,” he said.

Vertical construction is scheduled to begin this fall on a 73-unit, 18-story condominium tower called The Grande — complete with a restaurant. That work is expected to last two years.

If the national economy continues to perform well, Miars anticipates a five- to seven-year construction schedule for the entire project.

“Our expectations for the project is really what we set out for when we started in 2014,” Miars said, “to acquire a piece of land in the city of Sarasota in an area ripe for redevelopment and be able to intertwine ourselves into the fabric of Sarasota. Sarasota has so many great things that are going on, from the arts, the culture and the waterfront.

“This is one of those opportunities where we can seamlessly bridge in between those — and ultimately into downtown.”

City Commissioner Shelli Freeland Eddie applauded GreenPointe for seeking “community input at all stages of the project.”

She proposed that the company incorporate nearby Booker High School engineering and art students into the project in a shadowing program. Executives agreed immediately, she said in another interview. The collaboration will lead to job opportunities, she said. “We want to keep our best and brightest in our community.”

Pride plays a role, too. When those participating students drive by the Quay Sarasota in the future, they can say, “I had a part in that,” Freeland Eddie said.

Redevelopment plans for the 15-acre bayfront property began some 15 years ago. A few years after acquiring the land, the Irish investors leveled the old Sarasota Quay condo building in 2007. Bankruptcy and legal wrangling ended that effort and the site sat empty for years.

GreenPointe purchased the property in 2014 and now the first groundbreaking has occurred. Another will be held just ahead of vertical construction.

Sarasota Herald Tribune, May 23, 2018

Bayfront Group Refines Concept Plans

bayfront projectA singular vision for redeveloping the bayfront near downtown is coming into focus

Just three days after The Bay Sarasota stopped collecting surveys on a series of concepts for redeveloping more than 50 acres of city-owned waterfront land, the planning group was busy dissecting the information the public had submitted.

Based on more than 1,000 surveys — about two-thirds of the total results — some community priorities had already become clear. So, too, had some areas of public concern.

The feedback, both positive and negative, will inform the final master plan. As The Bay tries to build support among residents and city officials in pursuit of an ambitious bayfront vision, the group continues to express confidence that an actionable plan is coming together.

That’s not to say there are no questions regarding the path The Bay is taking. More than four years after Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 formed as a grassroots coalition to redevelop the property, residents have spoken out against plans to replace the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and reconfigure the 10th Street Boat Ramp. Not everyone is behind the group’s broader approach to putting together a plan.

At this point, The Bay isn’t looking for unanimous support. Bill Waddill, The Bay’s managing director, said the positive responses have largely outweighed the criticisms — but the group will address all the input it receives as it refines its plans.

“We’re going to have debate and disagreement,” Waddill said. “People raise issues and concerns. That’s fine. That’s healthy. That’s what happens in these processes — it’s now getting more and more real.”

On Tuesday, The Bay held a board meeting to discuss the latest stage of the process. After presenting three concept plans in April, the group is working with the planning firm Sasaki to consolidate the survey results into a single plan.

The surveys provided insight into some community preferences. Some examples: About 90% of respondents said they liked the waterfront walking paths included in each plan. Between 70% and 75% of the public endorsed the outdoor performance spaces in each concept. Nearly 80% liked the pedestrian bridges included in one plan.

The bayfront planners will use the Bride the Divide concept as a starting point, but forthcoming changes will reflect public input.

Overall, the public ranked the three plans relatively closely. The leading concept was “Bridge the Divide,” which featured the pedestrian bridges, a performing arts center spanning the canal near 10th Street and an emphasis on green space. As a result, Sasaki plans to use that concept as a starting point for developing a final plan.

Already, the group has identified some changes it wants to make based on public input. They include reconfiguring the proposed performance arts center to preserve views of the bay, creating more opportunities to activate the waterfront and exploring options for honoring the Van Wezel building.

Before the end of the month, Sasaki planners intend to return to the city with more revisions — including more information about expenses and a possible governance setup for the land.

“What you’ll see next won’t necessarily look like the ‘Bridge the Divide’ scheme,” said Gina Ford, Sasaki’s lead designer for the project. “We’re trying to morph it and integrate other things the community said it liked.”

Constructive criticism

As the plans for the bayfront become more detailed, so do the criticisms. One of the challenges The Bay faces is deciding how to respond to individual concerns.

In some cases, the group is willing to admit it’s missing the mark. Some of the strongest negative responses to the concept plans were tied to how they would affect boat access to the water. A.G. Lafley, chairman of the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization, encouraged the group to make a better effort to reach out to local boaters and to research what’s made other boat ramps successful.

“We have a community that’s fairly large that we have to get connected to and understand,” Lafley said.

The Bay is handling a push to preserve the Van Wezel slightly differently. About 17% of the survey responses reviewed so far offered comments about the Van Wezel. A majority expressed a desire to keep the building.

The planning group has repeatedly said its proposal for a new performing arts hall reflects the Van Wezel’s belief the existing venue is operationally limiting. At Tuesday’s meeting, The Bay members pointed out those pushing hard for the preservation of the Van Wezel were a vocal minority of respondents.

Still, the group has always expressed an intent to honor the Van Wezel in some form, no matter what happens to the current structure. Based on the results, the group committed to seriously explore the opportunities to repurpose the Van Wezel building. Waddill also stressed that, no matter what decision the city came to, it would be a long time before a new performing arts hall could even be built,  which means there’s plenty of time to carefully consider the Van Wezel’s future.

“It’s a series of decisions that will happen over years,” Waddill said.

In some cases, the planning group is standing behind its expertise despite some negative feedback. Surveys showed 36% of the public disliked the proposal to include a waterfront drive cutting through the green space in the Bridge the Divide scheme. Sasaki planners said this was an important feature for circulation during major events, for access for older residents and to connect the park to the fabric of the city.

The planners said they wanted to communicate to the public that the park driveway would be a small road that would not disrupt the green space with an overwhelming urban feeling.

“We can design it to be a low-speed, beautiful park experience,” Ford said.

There are some critics of the overall scope of The Bay’s work thus far. At Tuesday’s Downtown Improvement District meeting, board member and developer Mark Kauffman said he was upset about the inclusion of restaurants and parkland in the concept plans. He thought the bayfront redevelopment should be focused on cultural institutions, and he feared too many different ideas were being incorporated.

“These people tried to do everything for everybody,” Kauffman said.

Waddill said it’s easy to lose sight of just how much land is available. By way of comparison, he points to the area around the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa. That hub, which includes multiple theaters, the Tampa Museum of Art, Glazer Children’s Museum, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and a 932-space parking garage, is 23 acres.

He understands why Kauffman and others have the instinct to advocate for a more focused vision, whether it’s for a district celebrating the arts or for public parkland. He wants to assure the public that there’s plenty of land to do both, with room to spare.

“I’ve had some questions about why it seems like we’re trying to do a lot in this space,” Waddill said. “The answer is: We have 53 acres.”


Sarasota Observer, May 3, 2018

EPOCH Luxury Condo – Overlooking the Sarasota Bayfront

EPOCH Luxury CondoAn ultra-luxury condominium tower with clear bay front views is coming to downtown Sarasota. Seaward Development’s lavish 18-story EPOCH project shows the market for multi-million-dollar condos has not passed the saturation point.

The condo community will rise from a 100-foot-wide site between South Palm and South Gulfstream. The only thing separating the building from Sarasota Bay is Bayfront Park.

While the Sarasota-based company announced EPOCH’s debut this week, condo reservations began earlier this month. Buyers have placed reservations on four of the seven full-floor condos, which range in price from $5.39 million to $6.29 million.

One penthouse has yet to be designed or priced. The other 16 units share a floor, with prices starting at $3.22 million.

“It’s amazing how many calls we are getting,” said Amy Drake, a broker with Ocean Real Estate and president of Property Perspectives who is handling marketing and sales for EPOCH. “It shows the demand is there.”

The condos range from 3,689 to 5,379 square feet under air, plus each has multiple bay- and city-view terraces.

Some prospective buyers are seeking these larger spaces, and some desire an urban, walkable lifestyle without giving up space. The demand for direct water views is always strong, Drake said.

Patrick DiPinto, president of Seaward Development, said: “There is strong demand from single-family homeowners who are ready for a change but don’t want to sacrifice the space, privacy and quality their large homes offer.”

The distinctive design of the tower was inspired by the Sarasota School of architecture, said Igor Reyes, lead architect for Nichols, Brosch, Wurst, Wolfe and Associates of Coral Gables. The blending of spaces, he said, “juxtaposed with the distinct outline of each level, provides each residence a sense of individuality that sometimes gets lost in high-rise living.”

EPOCH offers private elevator entries, ceiling heights of 11 to 13 feet, tall walls of glass, open great rooms and kitchens, and large owners’ suites — huge in the full-floor plan, with a living-room-size sitting area.

Community amenities include a porte’ cochere with guest parking; an attended welcome lobby; residents’ clubroom; wellness/fitness center; a tropically landscaped pool terrace with lap pool, spa, fire table and cabanas; roof-top terrace; garage parking and private garages for the full-floor residences.

Construction is scheduled to begin next year, with completion two years later.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune April 18, 2018

Sales of $4 Million-Plus Homes Surging in Sarasota-Manatee

Sales of big homes for big bucks continue to be brisk in the Sarasota-Manatee real estate market. Latest sales trends show buyers’ search for value, waterfront and newer homes in current market.

Over the past six months, 28 homes and condominiums in the two counties sold for more than $4 million. Over the same six months in 2016-2017, only 10 properties were sold at that high price point.

 “These are impressive numbers,” Roger Pettingell of Coldwell Banker Real Estate said. He specializes in luxury waterfront properties in Sarasota and Longboat Key. Luxury homes are “moving really good,” he said. “It’s exciting, actually.”

 Others echo those views, citing the Sarasota-Manatee market’s value and attractiveness.

“It’s a really positive trend,” said Joel Schemmel of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. “Hopefully, the market will continue to accelerate.”

 “These are starting to make us look like a real luxury market,” Pettingell said. And the market is still not overpriced, he said, unlike Naples and Palm Beach.

Brian Loebker, a Realtor with Michael Saunders & Co., called the high-end buyer interest “extremely strong right now.”

Amenities and Value

 “Our customers cite Sarasota as a location filled with amenities and value — you would pay double, or maybe triple, for the same home in other locations like Miami or Naples,” Loebker said. “The Sarasota luxury real estate market is commanding the highest level of interest and attraction in its history at this moment.”

Schemmel calls Sarasota a “destination market.”

Buyers continue to be discriminating in the properties they view, Loebker said. “There is zero tolerance for over-paying or even viewing properties which seem over-priced. The buyers are active, paying with cash, and willing to strike a deal immediately provided it is fair and just for both buyer and seller,” he said. “Any signs of greed or over-self-confidence, and the buyers will never view the property.”

The sheer number of $4 million-plus homes currently awaiting buyers may appear to be just as mind-boggling as the sales figures.

As of April 13, 103 homes were listed for $4 million or more in Sarasota and 19 in Manatee, including single-family homes, condos and townhomes, figures from My Florida Regional MLS indicate.

“The amount of inventory currently on the market over $4 million is not unusual,” Loebker said. “Actually, the overall inventory has been down from October through February, so to see about 100 luxury homes over $4 million on the market right now is on trend with previous years. The key is getting these homes priced right for the buyer pool.”

At the end of April 2017, big listings totaled 79 in Sarasota and nine in Manatee. Listings for April 2016 stood at 70 and 12 respectively, Trendgraphix shows.

Pending sales through the end of this April will likely drop the number of listings, said Jennifer Horvat, chief marketing officer at Michael Saunders & Co.

On water but not on grade

The Realtors pointed out two other trends in the luxury market. The cost of waterfront land “has risen substantially,” Pettingell said, but buyers are less interested in older homes at grade level on water. Properties listed for $1 million to $2 million that are not on the water are the slowest to move, Schemmel said.

A lot of the luxury buyers live in Sarasota but are upgrading their homes while older residents who want to live closer to relatives and community amenities are selling and moving off the islands, thus increasing the luxury-market inventory.

Schemmel added another element to the high-end sales surge: value as an investment. “For the first time in a long time, real estate in the portfolio is a good thing,” he said, and “a great hedge against inflation.”

That is somewhat apparent in one segment of the luxury market. “Sarasota has proven itself as an exceptional location to have a second, third or fourth home,” Loebker said.

Luxury homebuilder Ryan Perrone, president of Nautilus Homes, which specializes in projects that start at about $4 million, agreed that the local market is strong. “We have seen an uptick in interest in our product. It is hard for me to say whether that is just due to a gain in market share or whether it is a trend.”

A wider pool of buyers

The interest is coming from different parts of the country, too, broadening the pool of house shoppers.

“We have taken notice that while our city has been traditionally made up of Midwest transplants, there is a shift of people coming from California and the Northeast,” Perrone said. “I believe that this is because people from these markets are used to looking at those sorts of price points. In fact, those prices look like a deal when coming from L.A.”

Steve Murray, president of Murray Homes, is also seeing an increase in clients from California. Murray Homes is building six homes in the $4 million-plus price bracket, an increase over last year.

“We believe that this is in part due to the state income tax in those states, as well as the new tax regulations,” Murray said in an email. “In addition, our area is seeing an increase in nationwide appeal due to awards, marketing and high-end hotels bringing new visitors to our region.”

Murray echoed the view that Sarasota-Manatee homes represent value. “These clients are used to higher residential prices and so we are seen as a relative bargain when compared with Naples, Miami and their home towns.”

Sarasota Herald-Tribune, April 17, 2018

Mote Marine Aquarium – New State-of-the-art Facility Planned

Mote MarineIt’s a “rebirth” of Mote Marine Laboratories: a new aquarium near Interstate 75 that would be more than twice as large as Mote’s current facility, and, Mote leaders hope, leave visitors feeling either “warmly embraced or smacked in the face with science.”

Plans for a new state-of-the-art aquarium at Nathan Benderson Park will allow Mote’s scientists to use their current facility in Sarasota to help them become what Michael Crosby, president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, calls the “Silicon Valley of Marine Science.”

“We have got really some of the best and brightest minds in marine science and we want to make sure that they’re able to translate, transfer, and convey the importance of that science to the public,” Crosby said Thursday.

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is outgrowing their facilities on City Island, Crosby said. They’ve had to turn down opportunities to work with scientists from around the world because there is no room. Two new scientists hired by Mote have been stationed at their Florida Keys facility, because there was not enough room on City Island.

The proposed multi-story, 110,000-square-foot aquarium would expand public access to marine science and technology, as well as allow more space for the research done at Mote to come to life and inspire others. It would also allow the scientists to continue and expand their research at their location on City Island.

Bob Essner, chairman of the board of trustees at Mote, called the new facility a “next and necessary step.”

“Mote has been a great research institute for a long time,” Essner said. “But the aquarium is going to be both a tremendously visible face for Mote as you’ve seen in the pictures we’ve shown, it’s spectacular; but it’s also going to be a portal into the science.”

After five years of looking for the perfect site, aquarium officials plan to construct the Mote Science Education Aquarium on about five acres of Sarasota County-owned land within Nathan Benderson Park, near Interstate 75 off the University Parkway exit. Mote officials have spoken with county officials, but have not made a formal request to get a long-term lease for the land approved. That is being initiated now, according to Mote officials.

The renderings displayed during Thursday’s press conference show a large, rounded building that Crosby said would be seen from the interstate, drawing even more attention to the area. At night, the outside of the building would be lit up with images of swimming animals.

The proposed aquarium will have 1 million gallons of water for exhibits, making a new home for animals and organisms from around the world. There would also be space for on-site diving programs, as well as teaching labs and space for science and technology demonstrations.

Science, Crosby said, will be first and foremost at the new aquarium.

Mote officials hope to begin construction in late 2019 with a goal of opening the facility in late 2021. They anticipate about 700,000 visitors in the opening year.

Education and economics

Crosby wants the Mote Science Education Aquarium to provide education not just to visitors but to area students. They aim to include teaching labs for kindergarten through 12th-grade students, and “putting research and education to work with schools in the region” for free. Included in the plans are hands-on STEM facilities.

“Part of the goal of this really is to get people here very involved in what’s going on in the seas around them. We all live near it, we all see it every day or almost every day, but yet, a lot people don’t really know much about marine science, about what the threats are, about what can be done to avert those threats and by bringing school children…. Everybody will get a sense of it,” Essner said.

The plan for the land also includes nature and education trails and science displays near the aquarium.

Mote officials emphasized the economic impact the construction would have as well. They estimate about $280 million in direct and indirect expenditures and 3,123 total person-years’ employment. As well, they estimated $28 million annually in economic benefits for Florida.

Being away from the ocean won’t be an issue for them, said Crosby, noting another large aquarium in Tennessee as an example. What is vital, he said, is the research and the research facility that is staying right where it is.

Funding the new facility

Powering the advance, Mote officials said Thursday, is the organization’s new, $130 million capital construction fund-raising effort, “Oceans for All: Improving Access to Marine Science & Technology.”

Mote will need an estimated $100 million in construction costs, as well as another $20 million to $30 million in pre-construction costs. Mote is working with two firms from the Northeast for the logistics of the build.

For a majority of the funding, Mote is planning on turning to the community for help by raising funds through their “Oceans for All” initiative. Corporate partners and sponsors will also be called on for a large chunk of the funds, with plans to seek some assistance from state and local governments and other public sources.

Already, 20 percent of the funds needed for the construction have been pledged, officials said.

Crosby said Mote plans to ask for only construction costs, and will take on all operational costs of the new facility themselves. He said he’s confident in the staff’s ability to run the larger facility.

Essner agreed.

“It’s just a major undertaking for Mote, but one that we’re pretty comfortable with because we’ve been running a successful aquarium now on a smaller scale for about 40 years,” Essner said.

The City Island facilities will become a science and innovation park, and Crosby hopes to grow the research facilities. But those plans are for beyond 2021. Crosby said they are looking to keep the City Island facility “fully operational and top-notch.” Once the time comes to open the new aquarium, they will shut down the old aquarium for a short period of time to move the animals.

Crosby said he’s excited for the anticipated impact the new facility will have.

“Beyond 2020, this is going to allow Mote Marine Laboratory to serve as the catalyst that will help pull together all of the different entities…. in southwest Florida,” Crosby said.

Bradenton Herald February 8, 2018

New Art Ovation Hotel Plays to Sarasota’s Cultural Heritage

Art Ovation

Art Ovation – a boutique downtown hotel, poised to open soon, intends to be the city’s “signature hotel of the arts” by embracing Sarasota’s colorful palette of visual and performing arts.

The 162-room Art Ovation Hotel will be well positioned, physically, to claim the title, being on the corner of North Palm and Cocoanut Avenues, a short walk to the Sarasota Opera House and across the street from Florida Studio Theatre. The interior will be well positioned, too, with displays of the work of Sarasota artists. Paintings by local artists — including children — will line the halls, and furniture by area craftspeople will be used in the rooms.

The hotel will feature an Artist in Residence Program, rotating art collections, art curators and VIP packages to area events and experiences. The walls in the massive lobby and nearby hallways will become galleries once the hotel is finished.

Guests can get into the artistic act by borrowing a musical instrument to “jam” with others or to enjoy an acoustic guitar, cello, steel guitar, banjo and other instruments in their own room. And they can contribute their own artwork during their stay. Each room has a leather-bound sketchbook with professional sketching pencils, sharpener and eraser.

Art Ovation will include a full-service restaurant, lobby bar, fitness center and a rooftop pool and bar.

The boutique hotel will be an Autograph Collection Hotel, one of the Marriott International brands with “upper upscale” and luxury independent hotels and resorts around the world. The Autograph Collection includes The Mark in London, the Atlantis on Paradise Island in the Bahamas and the Hotel Adagio in San Francisco. The company boasts that “this handpicked collection celebrates boutique hotels that deserve recognition as architectural gems” — each one “with its own distinct perspective.”

The cavernous ballroom will hold up to 450 people.

The hotel is scheduled to open on Jan. 18, 2018.

Prime Hospitality Group and Shaner Hotels are collaborating on Art Ovation Hotel. The two companies recently partnered to build and manage Playa Largo Resort & Spa in the Florida Keys.

“Sarasota is a mecca for all things arts, and it was clear from the very beginning of the project that we wanted Art Ovation Hotel to reflect the true character of the city,” Larry Abbo, CEO of Prime Hospitality Group, said in a news release. “We’re eager to capitalize on this unique opportunity to draw guests into the arts and cultural scene both on and off property.”

Brian Hockenbury, senior vice president of operations at Shaner Hotels, said, “We’re exploring a number of partnership possibilities, such as collaborating with students at the Ringling College of Art & Design, behind-the-scenes packages with Florida Studio Theatre, pop-up performances from Sarasota Opera, lunches with the director from Asolo Theatre, and more.”

Art Ovation is one of six downtown hotel projects in the works. Should all be built, the city will gain 973 hotel rooms.

One of those other projects is another boutique hotel, The Sarasota Modern, scheduled to open in the Rosemary District along Cocoanut Avenue next summer. This independent Tribute Portfolio hotel, a Starwood brand, will have 81 rooms.

The Modern will sit across Boulevard of the Arts from yet another boutique hotel, Hotel Indigo Sarasota. Both are near The Players Centre for Performing Arts, Art Center Sarasota and the Sarasota Orchestra.

Herald Tribune December 13, 2017

Sarasota-Manatee New Home Starts at Post-Recession Highs

New Home Starts SarasotaThe third quarter of 2017 proved to be a gem for housing starts in the Sarasota-Manatee market.

“Despite Hurricane Irma, quarterly starts were the best we have seen post-recession,” Metrostudy reported Tuesday.

The company, which provides market information to the housing and related industries nationwide, said the two-county market is building at about 120 percent of the 20-year moving average. And the growth is next expected to stop next year.

“Irma may push some closings into 2018, but she did not materially impact our forecast for increasing housing starts in 2018 for Sarasota,” said Tony Polito, regional director of Metrostudy’s Sarasota-Bradenton market.

The research, data and analytics company’s third-quarter survey of the Sarasota-Bradenton housing market found that 1,514 single-family units were started in the quarter, an increase of 3.4 percent compared with last year’s third quarter. The new figures also are 4.1 percent more starts than in this year’s second quarter.

Single-family closings in the quarter were 1,327 units, which was 2.2 percent higher than third quarter of 2016. Irma likely affected closings, which fell by 211 from the second quarter, according to the study.

The survey also found the problem of workforce housing is getting worse. “Affordability is getting squeezed in the lower price points as new home starts under $250,000 are down 20 percent year over year.”

For the 12 months ending Sept. 30, starts of new under $250,000 totaled 1,211, down 20 percent from the third quarter of 2016. Annual new-home starts over $250,000 increased 6.9 percent, the survey found.

“Hurricane Irma impacted jobs and the local economy in September,” Polito said, “but this is expected to be a short-term impact, although with a 3.3 percent local unemployment rate, new job creation is highly dependent upon new population growth.

This quarter, 1,763 lots were delivered to the Sarasota-Bradenton market compared with 1,251 in last year’s third quarter. Vacant developed lot inventory stands at 36,977 lots, an increase of 0.2 percent compared to 36,904 last year.

“Based upon the annual start rate, this level of lot inventory represents an 80.1-month supply, an increase of 0.5 months compared to last year,” Polito said.

During the recent third quarter, Manatee County recorded 747 housing starts, up 19.5 percent over the second quarter and up 19.5 percent compared with 2016′s third quarter. Sarasota County logged 600 housing starts this past quarter, up 24.5 percent versus this year’s second quarter and up 7.1 percent compared to last year’s third quarter.

Herald Tribune November 7, 2017