First phase of construction could begin in Fall 2016 on vacant lot at the NW corner of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41.
By Roger Drouin
Benderson Development has modified its plans for vacant land that was once a mobile home park at the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.
The development company is taking the first steps to gain county approval for the latest version of its plans for Siesta Promenade — a mixed-use center that would transform the busy intersection — and hopes to break ground by as early as fall, 2016 on the retail and hotel component of the project, Todd Mathes, director of development at Benderson told Siesta Sand.
The project requires Planning Commission and County Commission approval before construction could begin on the 24-acre site, and Benderson last month was in the process of filing the newest plans with the county’s land development services.
In large part to meet the concerns of nearby residents, Benderson Development recently modified its plans for the center, first presented in 2014.
Under the new plans, the lifestyle center would include 140,000 square feet of retail space and a 150-room hotel. A residential component of 600 units would be comprised of luxury rental apartments and condominiums on approximately 12 acres of the site.
Benderson has decreased the total proposed commercial development by more than 100,000 square feet, said Mathes, who is the project manager for the Siesta Promenade project. The initial plans for the lifestyle center had 250,000 square feet of retail space.
“We’ve spent a lot of time on this,” Mathes told Siesta Sand. “We are very confident that it works, and we think it is the right compromise for the neighborhood.”
Siesta Promenade would group relatively small retail buildings lined around the edges of the front half of the property. The largest retail space would be filled by an upscale grocery store, Mathes said. Some examples of a possible grocer include The Fresh Market or Sprouts Farmers Market. Shoppers would park in the middle and walk to restaurants, bars and shops.
The back portion of the property would have the hotel, and the residential units in four different buildings, the most recent plans show.
After seeing the 2014 plans for the center, residents in the Pine Shores neighborhood — the residential area behind the new development — were concerned about the amount of traffic the center would produce in an already congested season, and privacy issues.
Sura Kochman, a resident of the Pines Shore neighborhood and spokeswoman for the Pines Shores Neighborhood Alliance, said the reduction in the commercial aspect of the center is an improvement in updated plans. But she told Siesta Sand she still has concerns about traffic that will impact “all those who live/work/shop in the 41 and Stickney Point area, as well as residents and tourists who use the south bridge to access Siesta Key.”
Kochman said residents had specifically asked Benderson representatives to eliminate access points through the neighborhood, but the new plans shows access through the neighborhood. Kochman said residents are worried that to avoid traffic at U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road drivers will start using the neighborhood as a cut-through.
But Benderson representatives say the company is working on what it sees as the best ingress and egress into the center. They have presented entrance and exit plans for two intersections to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). The state agency is now reviewing those plans and responding with feedback, Mathes said. The developer is also working with FDOT to understand how a proposed signal at the intersection of Stickney Point Road and Avenue B and C, turning into the center, could be synchronized with the Stickney Point and Midnight Pass traffic signal to lessen traffic congestion.
Constructed in phases
The 24-acre site was formerly the site of a gas station and 300 mobile homes. It has been vacant for some time.
Benderson’s plans also include a sidewalk on Glencoe Avenue and landscaping buffering between the center and the nearby neighborhood. The developer has presented its latest plans to neighborhood leaders. Representatives also planned, as of press time, to present the new concept for the center at the June SKA monthly meeting.
While the retail and hotel phase would be constructed first, the residential component of the project would likely be built within three to five years after approval.
“They will be all high end rental [units] and condos,” Mathes said.
The director of development said the company has conducted research and believes there is a market for high-end residential units in that area of Sarasota County. “We believe there is a market for that,” he said.
The project seeks code changes to the zoning classification — currently the property is still zoned for mobile homes — and for additional allowed height for some of the residential buildings.
Pelican Plaza Upgrade
Some changes are also underway a few miles to the south at Benderson Development-owned Pelican Plaza, which was in need of rehabilitation when the Manatee-county based developer purchased it in 2012.
Benderson has steadily renovated the plaza, which now has a mix of new tenants, including Petco, Total Wine and More, Sports Authority, and ULTA beauty.
Starbucks is under construction in the plaza, and a grocery store is planned between PetCo and Total Wine, Mathes told Siesta Sand. The name of a grocer has not been officially announced.
As it revitalizes the Pelican Plaza, Benderson is also branching out, with projects on adjacent property. Benderson has purchased the office buildings south of Pelican Plaza and will demolish the buildings and redo the site to match the center, Mathes told Siesta Sand.
In addition, just to the north, the developer purchased the site of the long-time closed and dilapidated Denny’s and demolished the old restaurant space. Benderson is in the process of obtaining county approvals to build there, and expects to start construction soon.