The Ringling Shopping Center is located on the east end of downtown Sarasota.
The city of Sarasota has conducted a traffic study for up to 222 mid-rise apartment units and 175,000 square feet of retail space on the site.
by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor
When neighbors spoke out in opposition of plans for a Wal-Mart Supercenter at the Ringling Shopping Center three years ago, traffic was among their concerns.
Now, possible plans for the derelict property will generate 24% more traffic during rush hour than a similar Wal-Mart, which eventually died with a 2013 City Commission decision.
That’s according to a city staff-generated transportation study that highlights a more specific vision for the property than previously disclosed. Although property co-owner Louis Doyle has said he doesn’t have clear-cut plans for redevelopment, staff conducted the study for up to 222 mid-rise apartments and 175,000 square feet of retail space, including a coffee shop and specialty retail center.
Staff performed the analysis as part of the rezone and comprehensive plan amendment process, on which Doyle and the city agreed to undertake to settle a protracted lawsuit that followed the rejection of the proposed Walmart. Click here for more background on the legal battle.
The mostly-vacant Ringling Shopping Center once housed a Publix as its anchor.
Since the owner didn’t have any particular redevelopment plan in mind, city engineers picked nine scenarios that would be allowed under the proposed zoning — Downtown Edge and Downtown Neighborhood — and performed a study on the one that would generate a comparable amount of traffic as the current allowable use, according to City Planning and Development General Manager Gretchen Schneider.
The apartment-and-retail scenario would create about 560 rush hour vehicle trips, while a free-standing discount superstore — referred to in the study as a “Wal-Mart type” — would generate 451 trips. If Doyle, or a potential purchaser of the Ringling Shopping Center, decides to develop 222 apartments and 175,000 square feet of retail, they wouldn’t have to pursue a new traffic study, which can cost up to $15,000, because it would create 19 fewer rush hour vehicle trips than the current use: A shopping center and supermarket.
Still, any development under the new zoning distinction would be subject to parking, stormwater, landscaping and design standards, the latter of which was also a sticking point during the discussion of a Wal-Mart three years ago. Further, if the property owner opted for any development more intense than the current use, they may be required to build road improvements, such as additional lanes or roundabouts.
“I can’t speculate on the depth of demand, but I think it’s got great potential.” — Ian Black, Ian Black Real Estate
“I don’t think the neighbors are necessarily opposed to everything,” said City Attorney Robert Fournier in a previous interview with the Sarasota Observer. “I think they want it to be in accordance with the downtown code and New Urbanist principles.”
Here are some of the other scenarios that could be developed under the new zoning outlined in the study, and the projected traffic impact:
Scenario 1: Wal-Mart-type free-standing superstore; 452 trips
Scenario 3: Wal-Mart-type free-standing superstore, Starbuck’s-like coffee shop, mid-rise apartments; 651 trips
Scenario 4: Publix-type supermarket, Starbuck’s-like coffee shop, quality restaurant, copy store, Michael’s-type arts and crafts retailer, clothing store, veterinarian clinic, dental office; 811 trips
Scenario 9: Shopping center, coffee shop, condominiums or townhomes; 896 trips
While the traffic study helps bring a vision for the future of the Ringling Shopping Center into better focus, the market and Doyle or a new owner’s preferences will ultimately decide what replaces the roughly 120,000 square feet of brick buildings, which were constructed in 1955. And it will become the linchpin in the revitalization of the eastern end of downtown Sarasota.
“What happens at the Ringling Shopping Center is important for the eventual success of the area,” said Realtor Ian Black, whose office sits on the sixth floor of Kane Plaza on School Avenue. “I can’t speculate on the depth of demand, but I think it’s got great potential.”
Largo-based developer Icon Residential is planning a 37-unit luxury townhome project at Main Street and School Avenue called the Artisan on Main.
David Weekley Homes is under contract to buy roughly nine acres to build 133 townhouses at the previously proposed Payne Park Village near School and Ringling Boulevard.
And last month, JBCC Development, a firm led by developer Jim Bridges and commercial real estate broker Clint Conway, submitted plans to build a Wawa gas station at Fruitville and Lime Avenue. Most recently, Oaktree Development filed plans for a 7,500-square-foot retail complex at Fruitville and East Avenue, comprised of five individual 1,500-square-foot commercial spaces.
“It’s like we used to say about the Rosemary District,” said Black. “That’s the next place where it’s going to happen.”