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Historic Preservation Board denies demolition of 100-year-old Sarasota building

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SARASOTA, Fla (WFLA) – The structure most know as Mira Mar in Downtown Sarasota will remain standing, for now.

The building takes up almost an entire city block on South Palm Avenue. Many years ago, the structure was a hotel. It currently houses around 40 businesses.

The future of the 100-year-old structure has been up in the air — up until this week.

Seaward Development, which is headquartered in Mira Mar Plaza, aims to bring the old building back to life and up to code. To do so, the developers say they must demolish it. They’re currently in the due diligence phase of purchasing the property. They say structural evaluations have shown the building is nearing the end of its lifespan.

“The building being a 100-year-old wood frame building in the humid Florida conditions has really seen its lifecycle and it is starting to get into the extent where any level of repair would be quite tremendous and unfeasible, as the property owner realized,” Seaward Development President Matthew Leake said. “With that being said, we are assessing all options, but we do feel for the safety and security of the building that what is best is to redevelop the property, but not just to do redevelop with any building. What we have done in the past is more Sarasota School of Architecture – clean, coastal, modern architecture. Putting a glass and stucco building on this property wouldn’t do it justice to honor that history.”

The developer aims to build a mixed-use structure with two stories of commercial space facing Palm Avenue and up to 10 stories of residential space behind it.

Photo courtesy: Seaward Development

Tenants, including massage therapist Diane Lane, spoke before the city’s board ahead of their vote Tuesday.

“Without question, everybody feels so strongly this building is about the charm and charisma and what it brings to South Palm Avenue and the downtown area,” said Lane. “I get a lot of business coming from being downtown and my practice has been downtown for the last 12 years. I would lose a lot of business and I honestly don’t know where I would go.”

The city’s senior planner recommended the denial Tuesday due to its significant history within the City of Sarasota.

“It still gives you that sense of history, that sense of place,” Senior Planner Dr. Clifford Smith said. “It’s still provides you with that first Mediterranean revival complex building in the city. It is nearly a block long. It is unique.”

“If demo is not allowed, we will allow leases to run out over the next two years then close the building and fence it off, and allow it to decay as we cannot afford the repairs anymore.” current Mira Mar owner Dr. Mark Kauffman said in a statement.

Leake said they’re still exploring options and are disappointed by the decision.

“It doesn’t appear they gave any consideration into safety and the alarming engineering reports. We are anxiously awaiting the 72 hour update from Karins Engineering that should come in today and then again on Saturday to see if it’s safe to continue being a tenant. Our offer stands to be part of solution here and work with the historical community to continue to maintain the charm and character of the building and build a truer historical example of the original building in the 1920s,” said Leake.

The applicant has 10 days to appeal the board’s decision. If they decide to do so, the issue will go before the city commission.

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