A proposal by Sarasota businessman Harvey Vengroff — one of a slew of apartment proposals and projects in the city — is the subject of a community meeting today.
The complex that Vengroff proposes to build at 2211 Fruitville Road, east of downtown, would have 404 units within five six-story buildings. The units would range in size from 350 square feet for an efficiency to more than 800 square feet for a three-bedroom apartment, according to city documents.
Vengroff is asking for a reduction in the minimum parking spaces required by the property, from 404 to 242.
That is one of the topics of today’s gathering. Also expected to be discussed is a comprehensive plan amendment, a rezone, an alley vacation and the project’s site plan.
The 8-acre property that the apartments would be built on has a land-use classification of “Urban Edge” and is zoned “Industrial Light Warehousing.” The project is seeking a change to the future land-use classification and would be zoned “Downtown Core.”
The 65-by-15-foot segment of an unimproved public alley also would be vacated to allow for a continuous landscaped area with some parking amenities for the proposed apartment complex, city documents show.
Vengroff, one of the largest providers of affordable housing in Southwest Florida, initially proposed 700 or more units.
He has repeatedly challenged the city to allow him to build a major affordable housing development on his Fruitville property. But zoning, density limits, and parking rules present hurdles to building the hundreds of apartments Vengroff said he wants to rent out for about $600 per month.
Intended for people working low-wage jobs, the apartment complex might include a transportation service with three vans to shuttle residents to work throughout a 20-block area.
Vengroff has made similar pitches before only to be blocked by city codes. He has often complained that city officials talk publicly about Sarasota’s lack of affordable housing but offer little cooperation when someone seeks to build apartments with moderately priced rents.
Finding affordable housing is increasingly difficult in Sarasota as the area has rebounded from the Great Recession, with home and rent prices rising. According to the latest reports from the University of Florida’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies, more than 72,100 households in Sarasota County — about 41 percent of the county’s total — dedicate at least 30 percent of their total income toward housing, the benchmark for financial instability.
Vengroff’s apartments, if built, would join a wave of new construction, including major condominium and hotel projects downtown. In the Rosemary District, increased density has cleared the way for the 228-unit Sarasota Flats project at Fruitville Road and Central Avenue and the Cityside project at Boulevard of the Arts and Cocoanut Avenue, with 450 apartments. Another project at Boulevard of the Arts, between Lemon and Central avenues, could add 70 apartments in several five-story buildings.
At the same time, more apartments backed by local entrepreneur Jesse Biter are in the works. One, under a new developer, would place a 10-story apartment building at the former United Way building on Second Street.
Another plan to build 90 apartments alongside the HuB building at 2nd Street and Goodrich Avenue has a long way to go before breaking ground, according to developers.