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Signs of Life for Sarasota Quay Development

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Sarasota_BaysideThe owner of the former Sarasota Quay property is taking initial steps toward development.

GreenPointe Communities, which paid $27 million for the 14-acre bayfront site last December, expects to submit a formal development plan to the city of Sarasota early 2016.

The project, called "Sarasota Bayside," will - for now - retain the scope of the development that was approved eight years ago, GreenPointe regional president Rick Harcrow said Tuesday.

That project calls for up to 695 condominiums, 175 hotel rooms, 189,050 square feet of retail space and nearly 39,000 square feet of office space in buildings that could reach 18 stories in the Sarasota skyline.

"We're not seeking to increase those," Harcrow said. "We can always choose to not meet the maximum approved as we go along."

While much has changed in the city since the original developer abandoned the project after the Great Recession, the property is one of the most valuable vacant commercial sites along the West Coast of Florida and one that could help reshape the bayfront and downtown.

The developer envisions a project that will take seven to 10 years to complete. While no price tag has been set, Harcrow said the $1 billion cost calculated by the previous developer is a "reasonable" estimate.

GreenPointe, last month, asked the city to schedule a required community workshop to discuss vacation of publicly owned rights of way within the project. City chief planner Ryan Chapdelain said the workshop may be scheduled in January and will likely include an overview of the latest development plan.

The new owner also has gained more time to start development. Under the agreement approved in 2007, and later amended, the owner faced a Jan. 30, 2017 deadline to pull a building permit or the city's approval of the project would expire. That has been extended to Sept. 28, 2017.

If city approvals come as expected, Harcrow said the first phase of construction could begin by late 2016 or early 2017 on the southern half of the property, although what will be built there has not been decided.

"It's not necessary to go vertical on day one," Harcrow said. "We've got quite a bit of infrastructure work to do."

The property, west of U.S. 41 between the Hyatt Regency and the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota hotels, could also play a key role in discussions about other proposed bayfront redevelopment in the land the city owns around the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Harcrow said Sarasota Bayside wants to have pedestrian flow with that cultural district and ultimately become an extension of downtown.

Jacksonville-based GreenPointe acquired the property at a steep discount. An Irish developer had envisioned a massive mixed-use development but defaulted on $100 million in debt tied to the property and lost it to foreclosure to an Irish bank. That bank later failed, and the property reverted to the Irish government.

Built in 1985, the original Sarasota Quay was named to suggest European dockside luxury, but after 20 years it was better known for its high vacancy rate and a nightclub that drew dozens of calls to city police.

The property has been vacant since 2007, when the Irish developer, Patrick Kelly, razed the nine-story main building and other structures.

GreenPointe, which has developed more than $250 million worth of real estate in Florida since 2010, is taking on its biggest project with Sarasota Bayside.

"We certainly understand the importance of the Quay-Bayside property in the context of the city," Harcrow said. "We're committed to a quality development, and we're spending a great deal of time planning.

"It's more of a marathon than a sprint."

HeraldTribune 12/8/2015