There’s a land-use cage match underway on Fruitville Road. The city has agreed to sell a piece of land at the corner of Fruitville and Beneva Roads to Benderson, the mall developer who wants to put — what else — a strip mall there. This move was controversial among some city commissioners, who thought the $1.4 million sales price was too low.
On July 2, another investor, Commodore Realty, offered $3 million in cash. They would put multi-family residential, mixed-use development there, along with banks and a restaurant on the 11-acre site, one of the last and largest undeveloped sites on Fruitville Road. So we thought we would take this land-use duel to the streets: What would you put there?
Before you put up your dukes, let’s go through the questions you’ll be asking:
1) “Fruitville Road out there — really?” Yes, really. It’s inside the urban service boundary and not on top of prime farmland.
2) “What’s the Walkscore?” Glad you asked. It’s 57 out of 100 — somewhat walkable, but it could be better with a little good planning and connections.
3) “What’s Sim City?” A computer game where you build cities. We assume there isn’t much room for stashing computer games under that rock.
4) “Isn’t the Benderson plan a done deal?” No. The zoning and comprehensive plan both have to be changed to allow either site plan. The zoning is now Government and the future land use envisioned is Community Office/Institutional and open space.
5) “Why would anyone put more retail across the street from a retail glut?” Don’t know, but our guess is to snag in-bound drivers on Fruitville. There’s really nothing else retail-wise until you get to downtown. Walmart will likely snag outbound shoppers from downtown.
6) “Why would anyone propose residential land use with the housing glut?” Commodore Realty also owns the Sarasota Crossings Mall further east at Fruitville and Honore. They have the most to lose if Benderson builds retail at Fruitville and Beneva. But our region has a lot of houses in the wrong places, and not enough housing close to stuff such as grocery stores, work and, of course, the Shriner’s Hall. For Commodore, housing is not retail competition and makes sense for them.
7) “Before I have my say, what else do I need to know?” There are a couple of wild cards. An entrance to the property from Fruitville is not guaranteed. A lot of drainage and transportation work would need to be done (and first approved). And there is no guarantee that the city will change the comprehensive plan which Benderson says must be done before they’ll sign a check. There’s also a fire station that abuts the property, which can be tricky if you want to put housing right next door.
So what would you put there? In the comments section, let us know what types of uses you would place on this coveted property. Remember, this is land the city owns — so what’s in the best interest of the city? Bonus points for people who send us drawings or site plan sketches. Send this article to any architect friends to see what they would do.
If you really want to wonk out, here is the appraisal submitted by Benderson and presented to the City Commission with lots of details.