Kevin McQuaid's article in yesterdays SHT covers the Pineapple Square potential giveaway of public land and public dollars. As we have commented in previous posts, we think this giveaway would be in the range of $18,000,000.
While some may think upscale retail shopping in downtown Sarasota is worth this price, we do not. Sarasota has too many other priorities to give one retail developer this much money. None of the other retail centers in Sarasota has been "blessed" with this kind of handout and we don't see why Pineapple Square should set a new gold standard.
Kevin McQuaid says:
As part of its plan for Pineapple Square, a roughly $200 million project that would add between 30 and 40 shops, as well as 200 residences and more than 1,000 parking spaces, Isaac has asked the city for a sizeable amount of "cooperation."
Specifically, the city's cooperation would involve providing a one-acre, city-owned lot on State Street downtown that an appraiser has valued at $8 million, along with roughly $7.6 million to construct 350 public parking places within a Pineapple Square garage.
The developer also is asking the city to vacate -- read: close -- a swath of State Street from Lemon to Pineapple avenues. City officials say they have no idea what that largely unprecedented move would be worth.
But when city planners, in early September, sought financial and other data from Isaac related to its request, the developer balked. Isaac Chief Executive John Simon also ignored city Redevelopment Specialist Karin Murphy's letter requesting information on Pineapple Square in early October, according to Sarasota documents.
We do not understand Mr. Simon's spin on the question of what he requires from the city.
He wants the State St parking lot, he wants a block of State St to be vacated and given to him and he wants $7,600,000 to build parking spaces in his building. His spin on this indicates that the State St lot is "encumbered" because the city requires 350 parking spaces. His spin also says if the city wants the 350 spaces the city needs to pay for them. He also says that the air rights consumed by these parking spaces are more valuable than the air rights above the street he wants vacated (he would say "if you bring that up [vacating the street] you will lose that argument [the air rights]").
One thing we do know is that we already have 137 parking spaces in the State St lot and 14 spaces on the block of State St. that Simon is asking to be vacated.
We certainly hope none of the commissioners get sucked into his spin when it comes time to evaluate the proposal. Lay out clearly what the city is being asked to contribute, find out from other retailers around the city (ie., St Armands) what they think of giving Pineapple Square this much public money so they get parking inside their building, then ask the citizens of Sarasota if this is worth it. Finally think about Sarasota's needs (as opposed to wants), how does this project fit with affordable housing, how does it help the Newtown redevelopment project, how does it help traffic congestion, how does concentrating this much parking in one building help the rest of downtown.
We can't hear the spinning and sucking sounds too loudly yet. We hope it stays that way.