Fresh Market, a possible anchor
By Alan Cannestra
At a public meeting held June 26 by Benderson Development, plans to build a 250,000 square foot “retail lifestyle center” at the corner of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road was presented. The Siesta Promenade Project Manager, Todd Mathes announced that Siesta Promenade will include a 150-room hotel and would blend entertainment with dining and shopping.
Initial plans call for building on the 23.9 acre site to begin in the spring of 2015. As reported last month in Siesta Sand, one of the issues neighbors who live on the streets adjacent to the busy intersection are most concerned about is what will happen to the traffic patterns once the property is developed. The Pine Shores Association is concerned that patrons to the mall will use Glencoe, Elmwood and Beechwood to connect back to Hwy 41.
Mathes met again with the Pine Shores Association leadership on July 15, adjusting the plan to include a 100 unit apartment building and deleting retail space. The adjusted plan includes closing exits on Glencoe Avenue. This plan, however; is very fluid as Benderson works with the neighborhood groups scheduling additional meetings and most likely more changes to the plan. During the discussions, Fresh Market was brought up as a possible anchor for this development.
Bob Stein, a Siesta Key resident, and Vice President of Siesta Key Association (SKA) has also expressed concern, along with other island residents, about traffic issues potentially affecting visitors and residents going onto Siesta Key.
In an email sent to Mathes, Stein stated, “I’m emailing you my concern and that of the Siesta Key Association regarding the development for the Benderson property at the corner of Stickney Point Road and Hwy 41. We are concerned that a proper traffic study needs to happen before a zoning change is made. We are aware that the 4-6 pm is required under the regulations, but we all know this road is busy between 10 am – 2 pm in season and certain weekends in the summer.”
SKA Board Members, who represent the residential community of Siesta Key, have listed several areas of concern related to the request for zoning change. They cite the need for an Access Management Plan to alleviate traffic and increased intensity of use. The impact of inadequate traffic planning, including island access as well as routine traffic from US 41 and Stickney Point Rd. is a serious concern for visitors, business, residents and off island neighborhoods in proximity to the development.
Concerns voiced by business owners and residents during a recent neighborhood input meeting, reflect fears of traffic chaos during ‘season’. The fear of this may encourage people to use the north bridge for entry and exit. With Siesta Drive being a two lane road, those using the two lane north bridge of Siesta Key may experience traffic delays, congestion and safety risk.
Stein stated, “It’s good to have this property finally developed in hopes of providing a more welcoming appearance and entrance to the south end of Siesta Key. It was formerly an older mobile home park dating back to the 1960’s. Once the mobile homes and property were purchased and removed, the land stood vacant nearly five years”.
As the application for a Zoning Variance will modify the density and type of use permitted on this land, Siesta Key Association is taking an active role in discussions with the developers for Siesta Promenade, residents, island and off island Siesta Key businesses.
The Siesta Key Overlay District (SKOD), while not encompassing this specific land parcel, provides governance for changes in intensity or density of use within the barrier island community. With many commercial enterprises and sales using “Siesta Key’ as an identified affiliation, it’s evident ‘Siesta Key’ extends well beyond the bridges.
Business neighbors to the south of the proposed mall could be affected. If a traffic light is placed on Stickney Point Road just before Glencoe Avenue, it could potentially affect the businesses in the two malls anchored by Carrabas Italian Grill and Stonewood Grill & Tavern on Avenue A. FDOT could close the left hand turn lane to these malls.
The Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce (SKCC) has concerns as well. According to Debra Lynn-Schmitz, Executive Director of SKCC, “Our Siesta Key businesses and visitor accommodations rely on efficient transportation plans to attract customers from the island as well as off-island. Accessibility to the Key is critical to employers and employees and the tourism tax base. SCAT has added a new route to the beaches on Siesta Key and will need to maneuver through the already congested area. All alternatives should be carefully considered to find the best possible solution for our existing businesses and those we would welcome at Stickney Point and 41.”