03/31/2016 - Harold Bubil

Downtown Sarasota's latest condo opens sales center

The developer of a new downtown condominium gives the impression that he hasn't spent too many sleepless nights fretting over whether to make another big investment in Sarasota.

Bob Vail, president of The Kolter Group's Kolter Urban division based in West Palm Beach, said this week that cities like Sarasota are in short supply for projects such as the Mark, a mixed-use tower with 157 residences for which reservations are now being taken.

"There is only a handful of these fully amenitized, livable downtowns that are attached to waterfront in Florida," Vail said at the Wednesday grand opening of the Mark's sales office. "There's St. Pete, Palm Beach — same dynamic — and here.

"If we can drop people into nice, modern residences, with very current design, and we can get them up in the air with some views and an awareness that they are in an urban setting, and they can walk to restaurants and shopping, and if we can keep all that in a price range that is where the retiree and pre-retiree wants to be, then we find there are a lot of people in that market."

That price point is from $700,000 to $1.2 million, Vail said.

Kolter, which also is building the Vue condominium and the Westin Hotel at U.S. 41 and Gulf Stream Avenue on land for which it paid $40 million a decade ago, paid $11 million for the 1.6-acre parcel in a deal that closed this month.

The key to the purchase was First United Methodist Church's agreement to sell the parking lot now on the property, on which a previous developer held a land lease. Isaac Group Holdings' laid the groundwork and received municipal approval of its ambitious City Place at Pineapple Square, but that project stalled as the market struggled to recover from the real estate collapse.

Kolter Urban, the Kolter Group's branch that builds downtown projects, will begin construction of the Mark this summer.

The white modernist building, designed by Hoyt Architects, will have 35,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and 11,000 square feet of high-end office space that will mask three levels of parking on the building's interior.

Replacing a parking lot

The building will replace the church parking lot on State Street and the triangular single-story commercial building on the south side of State, between Pineapple and Lemon avenues.

The block of State Street between Lemon and Pineapple will become a pedestrian walkway, with the Mark built over it, creating a covered arcade with store entrances and the main entrance to the condominium.

The residential portion of the building begins with a fifth-floor amenity level that will have a resort-like "outdoor living room," with pool, conversation areas and a fire pit, said Michael Saunders, whose Michael Saunders & Co. is marketing the project. A fitness center and media room also is on the fifth floor.

The top floors of the 12-story structure will have condominiums ranging from 1,377 to 2,940 square feet. Prices are from the "high $600,000ss to $2 million," Saunders said, with most units priced at less than $1 million.

Vail said the Mark will be marketed to buyers who are moving off the keys or in from the eastern subdivisions and who want the energy and amenities of downtown.

"People want to stay much more active much later in their lives. They are healthier, and they want to spend most of their time outside their home," Vail said. "Where do you want to do that? Not in the suburbs. You have to get in your car."

"People are deciding to live downtown," Saunders said, adding that she sees no evidence of a bubble in the city, as inventory is absorbed by buyers. For example, only seven units remain unsold at the 141-unit Vue.

"We have seen an incredible response for this desirable location and vibrant urban lifestyle," she added.

Twenty reservations have been taken so far, Vail said in an interview at the Mark's sales office, on the south corner of State and Pineapple.

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