By Jane Bartnett
The Siesta Sand Hotel, a new eight-story, 80-foot high, 170 room structure, designed to reflect the Sarasota School of Architecture’s “Sarasota Modern” style, may be the latest addition to the Village of Siesta Key. The Sarasota County Planning and Development Services Department must give the green light before plans can proceed. Special Exceptions to the County’s Unified Development Code are required for a building of this height, and for a hotel to stand in Siesta Key’s commercial district.
The Siesta Sand has learned that the first steps in the process have been taken to move the project forward. The Sarasota law firm of Icard Merrill submitted a Pre-Application to the County Planning Department on May 18th, and in early June, the Planning Committee reviewed the plans and requested additional information from the investor’s group. When asked for comment on the proposal following the Committee’s review, Icard Merrill attorney William W. Merrill, III, told the Siesta Sand that “my client plans to proceed with the project as outlined in the pre-application process and contemplates some modifications.” The near one acre of land that would house the new hotel spans the northeast intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Beach Road. The property is under a long-term ground lease and currently houses office space, multi-family-apartments, and commercial parking. Before the project can move forward, a public meeting must also be held prior to County approval and the start of construction.
The architect for the project is Mark Sultana, founder and principal architect of Sarasota based, DSDG Architects. Recognized for his modern residential and commercial designs, Sultana’s commercial portfolio includes the Sarasota Yacht Club, Save our Seabirds, Lido Key, and the Oceane Siesta Key condominium. Plans reviewed by the Siesta Sand show that the design of the new hotel is slated to “complement and be consistent with the style of Sarasota and Siesta Key.” The five floors of the main building would sit above three levels of parking. The first parking level would be below ground. Parking for 198 cars and 25 valet parking spaces would be allotted. A hotel restaurant, bar, pool and shops would be in the main building. The main entrance to the new hotel would be from Calle Miramar.
Siesta Key is currently home to numerous hotels, motels and vacation rentals that offer visitors a wide range of choice in price and style. In recent years, according to Visit Sarasota, Sarasota County’s official tourism office, the Sarasota region has seen the creation of more than 1,000 guest rooms and meeting spaces as an array of luxury and boutique hotels have opened their doors.
Although the 2020 winter tourism season was exceptional, the onset of the Corona Virus had a severe impact on hotel bookings during the final weeks of March and early April. Despite the shutdown that impacted Siesta Key’s hospitality industry, tourism experts maintain hope for the future.
As the Siesta Sand reported in May, 350 frequent travelers took part in a poll for the Visit Sarasota Consumer Sentiment Study to gauge the group’s plans for short term travel. The travelers were residents of Atlanta, Chicago, the Tampa Bay area, the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale region, West Palm Beach, Orlando, and the New York City area. Survey results showed that the majority expressed an interest in visiting Siesta Key and other Southwest Florida beaches when travel is deemed safe again. They also reported that they will drive to their beach destination, as opposed to flying. The majority, the study showed, would be more comfortable visiting a sandy beach, instead of attending a concert, strolling through a major city, or cruising overseas. If travel experts and regular travelers are correct, large scale hotels such as the new Siesta Key Hotel may find a market and be welcomed by travelers to Siesta Key.