Monday, December 19, 2005


Lib Mews neighbor
Originally uploaded by

City of Sarasota Comprehensive Plan. Objective 4 - Neighborhood Compatibility

The City will promote compatibility of new and re-development projects within neighborhoods.

So says our Comprehensive Plan, that document that is to guide our development.

In the downtown neighborhood, on 2nd St near the library, is a block of small residences and commercial establishments. The most notable feature of this block is a row of 2 story townhouses, the Library Mews.

There is a small "historic" home - former home of A E Edwards - and John Carl's 3 1/2 story building.

Where the small, historic home sits, Joe Hembree, a Sarasota developer, has proposed to put a 10 story residential building containing 47 units. At 10,500 sq ft, the lot is less than 1/4 acre. Access to parking would be through a 20 ft wide alley at the rear of the building.

The residents of the 2 story Library Mews homes think this development is not compatible with their block or their neighborhood. It will tower over their homes, it is completely out of scale with the neighborhood, it will severely tax the alley that serves as the entrance to parking for their homes.

The sketch above indicates the scale of the proposed building in relation to the neighboring buildings. To the left of the hi-rise is the Library Mews, to the right is the 3 1/2 story Spa building.

This proposal challenges the concept of compatibility that is held by most people. It is out of scale with the block and the surrounding neighborhood.

How can this keep on happening in our city? This is the question we keep hearing everywhere we go. Of course the answer is that the City Commissioners are responsible for the decisions on growth and compatibility.

On Jan 3, the City Commission will conduct a hearing to determine whether this proposal is compatible. They will base their decision on testimony presented by citizens and whether they think the proposal complies with the Comprehensive Plan. It would be a real stretch to determine that this complies with the compatibility requirement of the Plan.

We hope many citizens of Sarasota pay close attention to this upcoming decision.


Anonymous said...


That's going to be a real winner!
Where do they find these architects?!!

Anonymous said...

There are many two-story buildings in the heart of downtown Sarasota. It seems to me the only thing that would satisfy you, based upon your objections to this proposal, is no development at all. You run the risk of eventually sounding like "chicken little", and people will stop listening. Choose your battles carefully.

Anonymous said...

You truly think objecting to a ten story building on less than a quarter of an acre that is being sandwiched between charming two and three story structures is being against all development? I would call it a legitimate concern about compatibility, a concern sadly lacking in a lot of our downtown development. Look at the interface between 1350 Main and once charming Palm Avenue. If one objects to that, is one against all development?

And, hate to say it, but agree with first comment. When did the Penitentiary Style become Sarasota's preferred architecture?

Anonymous said...

Okay then, where would a 10 or 18 story building fit in downtown, other than on Bayfront or Tamiami? If you can name more than four blocks, I'll grant your point.

Anonymous said...

The Plaza Verdi site. Pineapple Square...going for 13 stories in latest iteration of that project...behind Hollywood 20...Bank of America property for starters. Or are we talking 1/4 acre sites?

Anonymous said...

That building is a dog!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of design: What is surrounding this building does not look charming at all. Go see the colored rendering of the 10-story project, it is not as bad as you think.

Anonymous said...

Actually- yes it is. This site is too small to support a sensitively designed building that could relate to context and have recesses and step backs that would have broken up the massing and related better to the adjoining scale of its neighbors. The severity of both the east and west facades (and no doubt the other two facades as well) prove this out- even with the gratuitous and contrived ornamentation that has nothing to do with architecture. What the developer and architect have attempted to do is put 10 pounds of kaka into the 5 pound bag- and it smells to high heaven. I would have to agree with the first comment made about this building- it looks like they hired a cheap, untalented architect.

Anonymous said...

This is the architect:

It is hard to have architectural elements and windows on the sides with a zero setback parcel. Someone could teard down the rest of this neighborhood, build right up against this proposed building and get closer to the height and density of this project, making them all compatible.

Anonymous said...

So now you're saying the east and west walls are essentially 8 stories of solid wall- nice! My previous statement stands- 10 pounds in a 5 pound bag. This building cannot do anything else but become a 10 story extruded form with styrofoam applied for gratuitous ornamentation because- once again- the site is too small! Congratulations!! What an original and sensitive design! I hope you didn't pay them very much much because that is one cheap looking design.

Tyson Betty said...

The issue for the owners in Library Mews is not one of being against development on the Hembree site. Our concern is that we view the project as one that is totally inappropriate for the block and for the area that technically feathers down in size as it appraoches the Downtown Edge zoning, where the building height drops to a 5 story maximum.

There is no building within our block that is more than 5 stories, other than the intended project. The maximum height of existing structures on the block is 4 stories.

We would consider a scaled down project as a supportable one.

Mr. Hembree is asking the Commission for extra density under the DROD to be able to build 47 units on less than 1/4 acre. Our view is that the request should be turned down, because the project is grossly out of scale with the block. Additionally, though the project may fill requirements under the DROD, it violates all of the compatibility requirements in the City's Comprehensive Plan.

Further, the DROD is under revision, a tacit admission that it is flawed, and the Hembree project may be one of only two projects considered under the DROD in its present form.

We do need for our City leaders to exercise common sense and judgement as they consider granting bonus density to a project that does nothing for the City, or for the project's neighbors, and which serves only to make money for the developer.

Tyson Betty
Library Mews

Anonymous said...

I did go onto the architect's website, as you had suggested, and saw the company's approach defined as "The Architecture of Life." It states further: "The Architecture of Life" is not just a marketing slogan. It serves to remind us that people are at the center of everything we do. We approach our work with a different view, not only through your eyes, but also through the eyes of your clients--the people who experience life in and through our buildings."

The residents of buildings on your block and the citizens of Sarasota will, indeed, experience life in and through your buildings. That should be the true meaning of "The Architecture of Life." What they seem to be suggesting is that the experience is not what they would have hoped for.

Anonymous said...

The developers of this site can't be blamed for taking advantage of the "DROD" zoning exemption. 200 units per acre, with a 10 story limit will produce an eye sore any way you build it. Bad planning, the primacy of private property rights, the lack of communal legal rights, the absence of any sense of civic identity are a few of the underlying root causes of the "urban renewal" free for all that has produced many notably bad buildings in the downtown area.

The drafters of the DROD zoning exemption should have been more careful about insuring the intent of providing affordable or "accessible" housing downtown was actually met. It is hard to argue that 600 s.f. condos costing 400k or 500k meet that objective. Also, considering the high densities involved they should have been more sensitive to site location requirements with the idea of keeping "like to like".

Has anyone considered what this building might become in the not too distant future? A single occupancy high rise slum is a real possibility.....

Speaking of bad, ugly buildings I just drove down first street, looked up at the grey, fortified backside of the 5 points building and noticed a half a dozen or so Palm trees suspended on top of level 5 sticking out, ever so much like nose hairs.....Is it too much to ask, considering the wealth and talent that we have in the area, for some one in the development game to get it right????