News Up & Down the Trail

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Sarasota news

By Roger Drouin & Debbie Flessner

MainStreet/Hollywood 20 Plaza sells 
The Sarasota Main Street Plaza has been sold.

Last month, entrepreneur Jesse Biter and fellow Sarasota investors David Chessler, along with golfer Greg Norman, and Eric Baird, finalized the purchase of the 8.6-acre Main Plaza, which houses the Hollywood 20 movie theater.

The group purchased the highly-visible property consisting of eight acres of land in the Sarasota downtown corridor from Paragon Management Group, LLC. The property features 245,000 square feet of office and retail space, over 70,000 square feet of space currently leased to Hollywood 20 / Regal Cinemas, as well as an 850 car parking garage with valet service on the property. Terms of the purchase of 1991 Main St. from Paragon Management Group LLC were not released.

The property has been renamed "BBC Main Street."               

The sale of the Main Street Plaza followed the closing of Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar, at 1991 Main Street. The restaurant, which is a part of the plaza, closed after 18 years. The 5,835-square-foot space at 1991 Main Street was home to Applebee’s since 1997, when the Sarasota Main Plaza opened.

The Sarasota Main Plaza has been listed for sale since last summer by Cushman & Wakefield. The existing 253,504-square-foot plaza could be renovated, or with Downtown Core zoning and a central location in the heart of the city, it can be razed to clear way for a new development with condos, a hotel or other commercial uses.


FEMA scales back county’s flood maps 
Some Sarasota County property owners might have cause to breathe a sigh of relief.

That’s because nearly 15,000 properties have been removed from high-risk zones on the revised draft of Sarasota County's Special Flood Hazard Area maps following a review by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).               

Months after increasing the number of Sarasota County property owners in the high-risk flood zones, FEMA has scaled back that number from around 43,000 to around 28,000. Sarasota County officials say they teamed up with city and state agencies to point out to FEMA it wasn't following its own rules when it comes to areas that flood one foot or less.               

Sarasota County and its partners at the cities of North Port, Sarasota and Venice, the Town of Longboat Key and the Southwest Florida Water Management District worked as a team to submit more than 800 comments and eight separate technical appeals to FEMA in April in an effort to improve the accuracy of the flood risk maps. The submission resulted in adjustments and a revised flood hazard map that was sent to local communities on Oct. 14. Those revised maps are available for the public to review online at For assistance, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.               

"Special thanks should be given to the public for their participation in seven public workshops held last January through April," said Molly Williams, stormwater manager with Sarasota County Public Utilities.

The submission of the appeals and comments resulted in the removal of more than 14,000 properties that had been newly mapped into a high risk zone when the preliminary map update was made available last December. An additional 658 properties have been mapped out of the high risk zone.

These important changes are part of a multi-year project to update the maps, and three more steps remain:

• Sarasota County, the cities of North Port, Sarasota and Venice and the Town of Longboat Key responded to the revised draft maps in mid-November.

• Final quality reviews will be conducted again by FEMA, resulting in issuance of a Letter of Final Determination (LFD), which is anticipated sometime in January.

• The LFD will specify a six-month compliance period, during which time communities can make necessary adjustments to current ordinances in order to adopt the new maps. Sarasota County anticipates the compliance period deadline to be sometime in June-July 2016.

For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000 or visit


Apartment complex coming to Cattleman 
Construction work has begun on a 32.5-acre tract of vacant property along Cattlemen Road near Interstate 75, where the 360-unit “Springs at Bee Ridge” apartment complex will be built.

The complex is the latest in a rush by multi-family developers to meet the demand in Sarasota County for affordable leases, as rents increase and vacancy levels remain low.               

According to the website for the Springs at Bee Ridge apartment community, “the apartments will have many elegant finishes including hardwood-style flooring in the kitchen, living room and bathrooms, black appliances, washers & dryers, curved shower rods and 2" faux wood blinds. Every home will have a ground-level, private entry and many will have balconies or patios.”


Architectural nod 
Our local architectural history got a nice nod in a recent Washington Post piece.

The article, published Nov. 12, describes how some of the historic “Sarasota School of Architecture” homes and other structures “in and around Sarasota … helped define America’s mid-century modern style.” The article highlighted the second SarasotaMod event and the Sarasota Architectural Foundation.


LBK joins “best of” prestige 
The region’s reputation as a tourism and retiree paradise shows no sign of diminishing.

 The national acclaim has spread to Longboat Key, which was named the No. 9 best island in the U.S. in Conde Nast Traveler's 2015 Readers' Choice Awards. Hawaii's Maui, Kauai, Oahu and Big Island nabbed the top four slots. Amelia Island, which ranked No. 10, was the only other Florida location to make the list.               

In the same month, the city of Sarasota was ranked on another website list recognizing it as a desirable place to live. ranked Sarasota second on its “Top 10 Best Places to Retire” list for 2015, citing quality healthcare and retiree-friendly services. The city was the only municipality in Florida to make the list. The top places for retiree’s in numerical order are 1. Santa Barbara, Calif., 2. Sarasota, 3. Plano, Texas, 4. Tacoma, Wash., 5. Carson City, Nev., 6. Hillsboro, Ore., 7. Lincoln, Neb., 8. Charlottesville, Va., 9. Rapid City, S.D., 10. Scottsdale, Ariz.        states these U.S. cities offer access to affordable and quality health care, a practical cost of living, retiree-friendly businesses and services, as well as several amenities to help keep residents active. examined their own survey research to determine which criteria are most important to this generation: exemplary and affordable health-care services, presence of other seniors, ways to become or stay involved in the community, low crime rates, moderate climates and access to golf courses and other outdoor amenities


County moves forward with mobility fee 
County commissioners on Nov. 10 moved forward with replacing road impact fees with mobility fees, which will change the way developers fund future transportation needs.

Commissioners amended the road impact fee ordinance to clarify how the transition from impact fees to mobility fees will take place.               

The mobility fees work like the road impact fees in that developers pay the county to offset the cost of new properties' impacts on public infrastructure. But unlike road impact fees, mobility fees are structured to discourage urban sprawl while promoting alternative modes of transportation through construction of sidewalks and bike paths.

The city of Sarasota created its own multimodal traffic fee program last year.


Looking for British Christmas treats 
Looking for something special to celebrate the Holidays? 4 & 20 Patsy Company carries a wide variety of items from across the pond. You’ll find British Christmas special items available in the store in December such as; Classic and Luxury Walker’s Christmas Puddings, Iced Christmas Cakes in various sizes, 4 & 20’s now famous homemade Mince Pie Puffs, Clotted Cream, or 4 & 20’s delicious Pork Pies and Sausage Rolls, special Paxo Cranberry and Chestnut Stuffing Mix, even 1lb packages of Pork Sausage meat for the other end of the turkey! All items are available from December 1 at the 4 & 20 Pasty Company, 5638 Swift Road, Sarasota, 34231. Be sure to buy soon as they always sell out. Make 2015 Christmas in the Sunshine a special ‘Britannia’ Day.


Venice attempts to get homeless situation under control 
Partially as the result of an incident involving Venice mayor John Holic, the city is considering hiring security guards to handle its homeless situation.

On a 5 a.m. jog with a friend, Mayor Holic was stopped by a homeless woman in the middle of downtown, on West Venice Avenue, who asked him for $10. The Mayor told the woman he didn't carry money when he jogged and went on his way, however the incident was observed by a Venice Police officer who was sitting in his patrol car. When the woman was questioned by the officer, she told him that the Mayor had stolen $10 from her, which as the Mayor told the City Council, is an example of how stories can be fabricated.

Since many other Venice citizens and visitors have complained about their access being blocked to the beaches, public restrooms and other facilities by transients, the City Council agreed with the Mayor that something needed to be done quickly. The Mayor asked for security guards to be posted downtown to deal with the situation, at least until a more long-term solution is presented. City Manager Ed Lavalee will be returning to next month's City Council meeting with a written proposal.


New heart surgeon to join Venice Regional Bayfront Health 
A Texas Heart Institute-trained and board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon is the newest staff member at Venice Regional Bayfront Health's Gulf Coast Medical Group.

Dr. Roberto Cervera specializes in high-risk coronary revascularization (bypasses and angioplasties), thoracic oncology (cancer treatment), video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, vascular and endovascular surgery and limb-salvage procedures. He is the first new surgeon ever to join the heart program.

“Dr. Cervera is a talented surgeon and researcher,” said interim Venice Regional CEO Jeff Reece in a press statement. “He has an ideal combination of training, experience and passion for medicine to complement our existing team and help advance the vision for our cardiac program.”

Cerveza most recently practiced medicine at Yuma Regional Medical Center in Yuma, Arizona, where he developed a comprehensive endovascular aortic program, as well as a trans catheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) program. At Venice Regional, Cervera joins a program that was recently recognized as one of the Top 50 Cardiovascular Hospitals in the nation by Truven Health Analytics.


Caspersen Beach faces heavy erosion problems 
Work has begun in an attempt to save the beach that helped to earn the City of Venice the nickname of "The Shark Tooth Capital of the World."

Caspersen Beach has been eroding at a much faster pace than anticipated and now the county faces the prospect of either trying to fund the renourishment or letting the natural process continue. Early last month, the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department removed the freestanding wooden staircase that is no longer of use and is a safety hazard, away from the edge of Harbor Drive.

Even though Caspersen is technically designated as a "critically eroded" beach by the Florida Environmental Protection Division (EPD), it may not be eligible for renourishment funds, based on county having already spent money on a new rowing park in north Sarasota and other expenditures.

Sarasota County did look at the possibility of funding the Caspersen renourishment last year, but decided against it. Next up, the EPD and the parks department will work together to evaluate the extent of erosion along the shoreline, and then prepare a status update and plan out appropriate follow-up steps.


Sarasota Memorial Hospital sets its sights on Venice 
Based on what Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) president and CEO David Verinder called "popular demand," SMH announced plans to construct a new general, acute-care hospital in Venice.

The plans do need to be approved first, though, and early last month, SMH submitted a letter to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) stating its intent to build the hospital, which the letter said would be up to 200 beds.

Verinder said he believed South County not only could support another hospital, it needed one, based on the fact that many patients at the 819-bed SMH come from South County. If approved, the new hospital would likely be constructed on the hospital’s existing property at Laurel Road and I-75, on which it had originally planned to put a medical complex. Those plans were put on hold because of the economy.

The AHCA will have until June 3 to make a decision on the SMH application, but there will still be additional approvals needed. If all requirements are met, it would be 2017 or even later before SMH could begin construction.


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