By Rachel Brown Hackney
Is retail space needed at Siesta Promenade?
Another question that arose during the Aug. 23 workshop regarding Benderson Development’s Siesta Promenade mixed-use project related to whether more retail centers are needed in the area.
A woman who lives on Avenue A told Todd Mathes, director of development for Benderson, “I do a lot of shopping, and I see so many vacant stores, a lot of ’em being [owned by] Benderson … How can you justify another shopping center … on that corner?”
She was referring to the approximately 24 acres at the intersection of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41, where Benderson has proposed up to 133,000 square feet of new retail space, along with 414 residential units, up to 7,000 square feet of office space and a 130-room hotel.
Since he began working on the Siesta Promenade plans in 2014, Mathes responded, Benderson had purchased the Casey Key shopping center at Blackburn Point Road and U.S. 41; Pelican Plaza on South Tamiami Trail; and The Landings, which is next to the Sarasota County School District offices, also on South Tamiami Trail.
“We’re very confident in the future of these shopping centers, the ability to redevelop them,” Mathes continued. “We’ve invested significantly in them. … We see the future of these centers. There’s demand there. We fill them up. They’re very successful.”
He mentioned that the firm acquired The Landings “a short while ago.” That transaction occurred in January 2017. Since then, the company has been working to fill a number of vacant storefronts in that center.
Mathes said Benderson plans a grocery store anchor for Siesta Promenade that would comprise about 35,000 square feet.
“It would be very much a neighborhood center,” he added of the retail space in that new project, with shops designed for residents in the adjacent Pine Shores Estates and those on Siesta Key. That was how the firm arrived at the amount of square footage for office and retail space in its application, he added. “It’s not without understanding the market in terms of existing shopping centers on the Trail.”
Road swap conclusion still anticipated by year’s end
Todd Dary, manager of the county’s Planning Division, figuratively raised some eyebrows during the Aug. 23 Neighborhood Workshop on the proposed Siesta Promenade project when he initially told the audience that Stickney Point Road “has been swapped for River Road.”
Dary corrected himself quickly, saying that the swap is “in the works.”
Late in the summer of 2017, then-County Administrator Tom Harmer first announced that county staff was working with representatives of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) on a proposal for the county to take over from FDOT authority for roads on Siesta Key, including Stickney Point Road, Siesta Drive and Higel Avenue. In turn, FDOT would take over River Road, which the commissioners have been trying for decades to widen and improve. As a state road, River Road would be able to garner a much higher priority for those upgrades, county staff has explained.
Dary did note during the Siesta Promenade workshop that FDOT still would have to review any proposed traffic changes on Stickney Point Road, even if they were to take place after the road swap were concluded.
Among the proposals Benderson Development Co. has suggested in its traffic analyses related to Siesta Promenade are a traffic signal at the intersection of Stickney Point Road and Avenue B and C, as well as the closure of the median opening at Avenue A.
Sura Kochman, a leader of the Pine Shores Neighborhood Alliance, pointed out during the Aug. 23 workshop that the loss of the Avenue A median cut would isolate businesses and residents on the south side of Stickney Point Road.
After the workshop, we checked with county staff for an update on the road swap. In an Aug. 27 email, Ashley Lusby, the media relations officer for the county’s Emergency Services Department, wrote, “The county is still working on the final agreement with the state and [we] anticipate presenting the document for the [County Commission’s] consideration late this calendar year.”
She added, “As far as any roadway related permitting responsibilities with the Siesta Promenade project, they remain with the FDOT at this time, with advisory input from the county.”