Updated 12:21 a.m. Dec. 11
If Rosemary Rising is the marketing tagline to the Rosemary District, the rising could mean the density, but not necessarily the height of development in the neighborhood.
About 60 Sarasota residents and business owners showed up at City Hall Monday night to discuss the redevelopment of the Rosemary District and specifically a city-owned parcel at 1440 Boulevard of the Arts and an adjacent parking lot.
"As the economy bounces back, we want to make Rosemary as attractive as we can for redevelopment opportunities," said city chief planner Ryan Chapeldain said. "We feel this area is right for redevelopment and when we look at the parcel's proximity to downtown, and the zoning we have in place there, we think there are a lot of opportunities."
The Rosemary District is located between Fruitville Road, North Tamiami Trail, Orange Avenue, and 10th Street. This historic district is known for its creative economy, including artists, small businesses and boutiques but has struggled to maintain momentum to spur additional development.
Though only a handful of people spoke, dominating the conversation and few suggested specific ventures.
1440 Boulevard of the Arts and 5th Street Lot
The 1440 Boulevard of the Arts parcel was the former Rosemary Community Garden and it's zoned Downtown Edge, meaning there can be a maximum of 25 units per acre and build five stories. The property is 0.80 acres
The consensus was that more density should be allowed in Rosemary District, but not going hand in hand with the number of stories that downtown core towers are allowed. Instead, an overlay district of some sort would be preferred to allow mixed-use development throughout Rosemary to allow retail on the first floor and housing on the stories above. Downtown Core zoning allows a maximum of 50 units per acre with 10 stories height.
An informal survey by raise of hands showed about half of the audience Monday night supported increase density to be allowed in Rosemary.
The few people who dominated the conversation as the group hammered on questions about mixed-use development, added density without maximum height.
At one time the Rosemary District would have seen quite the change in regards to housing.
Developer Wayne Morehead had planned to build a mixed-use condo development called CityPointe with more than 360 units by Iberia Bank foreclosed on the Cocoanut Avenue property along Boulevard of the Arts and 10th Street, The Herald-Tribune reported.
The thought now by a few in the audience, including Black, is to do small 600-square-foot live-work studio apartments for twenty-somethings and build units of varying size to hit other income points, and make it a hip, Arts & Entertainment district.
A proposal for 1440 Boulevard of the Arts and the Fifth Street lot can look to stretch beyond that property, though, triggering different kinds of development, Chapeldain said. Combining those two properties could yield 27 dwelling units, according to city officials.
The Fifth Street lot is zoned as government land and would need to be rezoned for commercial and mixed use projects, and there is a potential if warranted, that adjacent properties could be purchased for a larger project, Chapeldain said.
Meeting the parking component, for instance, could come with some creative solutions, including building a parking garage on the property or as part of the mixed-use building, said Dr. Clifford Smith, senior planner for the City of Sarasota.
Those properties are owned by Mindy Parker, who runs both the Suncoast Foodtrucks and real estate company Sarasota Commercial Management Inc., which started out by handling properties of her father, Dr. Mark Kauffman years ago.
Given there are other properties in the area that could be of interest, Ian Black of Ian Black Real Estate said it would benefit the city to increase its residential taxpayer base in Rosemary with the higher density.
"The greatest deterrent to revitalization of the Rosemary District is the codes and the zoning," Black said, adding his support for the overlay zoning.
Rosemary Economic Development
Fruitville Road is a real barrier several attendees said, and some sort of direction or pedestrian friendly improvements are needed to encourage folks to walk to Rosemary.
The city is looked at a pedestrian sleeve at Fruitville Road and Central Avenue in the past, Chapeldain said, and improvements are still being discussed. Pedestrian sleeves are specifically designed walkways at intersections that encourages folk to walk and cars to be aware of pedestrian traffic.
The name Rosemary District along with the Rosemary District Association names appear to be eroding, as the Rosemary Association's website, www.therosemarydistrict.com is inactive and now a spam site in Japanese.
Several businesses are partnering to create the North of Fruitville District Association, or NOF, and are even producing videos and branding materials to promote the movement on YouTube, but no site can be found for the association.
Whatever it's called, it's underdeveloped at its core and a couple attendees had specific suggestions to help shape the neighborhood.
Artist Virginia Hoffman would like to see the industrial light warehouse zoning north of the Rosemary District have an added overlay to allow live-work affordable housing units for artists and recent college graduates.
"If you want artists to create that energy to go to the coffee shops, to put the art work in the galleries, it's essential they have live-work for the artists to occupy and for the Ringling students and the New College students will hopefully have a reason to stick around because there's a cool neighborhood with live-work in it," Hoffman said. "What you have to do is this must remain affordable."
Some suggest modeling after other hip neighborhoods like the Pearl District in Portland or Asheville, N.C. One man said that Asheville is "like a free spirit community that attracts a lot of people—young and old—and I think with the proper planning, Rosemary District could be that community."
Gillespie resident and community psychologist Dale Orlando suggested that the neighborhood plan to attract doctors for a public-private community clinic that would be part of an expansion under Obamacare and form a task force to make it happen.
Orlando, who is an animator and cartoonist, was formerly the executive director of the Fenway Health Center and helped developed health centers in the Boston area, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Some short-term fixes to add on-street parking can be made relatively soon in Rosemary, said Alex Davis-Shaw, city engineer.
One solution is to remove a travel lane on Lemon Avenue that will eventually be used for the proposed Bus Rapid Transit line then roundabout attempt at 10th Street and U.S. 41 and turn it into parallel parking, Davis-Shaw said, having 18 spaces from Fruitville Road to Boulevard of the Arts and 49 spaces from Boulevard of the Arts to 10th Street.
"That's something we could just do on striping and signage," Davis-Shaw said.
Part of the roundabout strategy at 10th and U.S. 41 is with a combination of slowing traffic and way finding signs, get people to downtown through the Rosemary District at 10th Street instead of continuing to Gulfstream Avenue, Davis-Shaw added.
Permanent parking could be added on Kumquat Court, but additional surveying is needed, Davis-Shaw added.
The timed parking component would also have to be looked at, Davis-Shaw said.
The comments from the meeting will be presented to the city commission for review and further direction for the next step, Chapdelain said.