by: Alex Mahadevan via yourobserver.com
With the potential sale of George’s Top & Body Shop to a developer planning 295 apartments, the Rosemary District continues to blossom with new development.
On Tuesday, the Downtown Improvement District took a definitive step toward harnessing the projected growth in the area north of downtown — which includes the 470-unit CitySide project and 228 rentals at Sarasota Flats — with a 4-1 vote approving a task force to explore expansion into the Rosemary District.
Despite concerns from DID board member Ron Soto about gathering more input from current DID members, the city will now decide whether to appoint an 11-member committee to survey the roughly 147 property owners in the Rosemary District. To move forward, the DID hopes to get a majority of commercial property owners on board. Property owners will be taxed at 2 mills like current DID property owners.
The expansion would increase the DID’s budget by 70% to more than $580,000, according to estimates by DID Operations Manager John Moran.
Though Soto said during a previous meeting that Rosemary could monopolize a majority of new infrastructure projects, DID Chairman Mark Kauffman said the new district could help fund the DID’s deficit over the next decade.
“I think having a mechanism to fund improvement projects in the Rosemary District and elsewhere is vitally important to a downtown,” said Downtown Economic Development Coordinator Norm Gollub.
The move could also be an alternative for bolstering infrastructure to the downtown Community Redevelopment Area, which is set to sunset in 2016.
“Should the CRA expire — and all indications are that it will — there has to be a way to fund improvements,” Gollub said.
According to estimates, Gollub said the next five years could bring between 1,600 to 2,500 new residents into Rosemary, which will be a boon to retail — further increasing property values. The latest proposal for development within the district is the tentatively named 7th Street Apartments, which will replace the longtime body shop at the intersection of Lemon Avenue and Boulevard of the Arts, and two other adjacent structures.