Pineapple Park Looms as Downtown Growth Epicenter


SARASOTA, FLORIDA, October 13th, 2015 – Development activities look poised to pick up in the area around Sarasota downtown’s Pineapple Park. Early in September 2015, West Palm Beach-based Kolter Group was reported exploring the possibility of buying the rights for developing Pineapple Square, a planned mixed-use project near the park popular for its weekly Farmers Market.

The Pineapple Square development was proposed about a decade ago at a site straddling three distinct land parcels between Pineapple and Lemon Avenues, with State Street running east to west through its center. This proposed location has been planned and approved for a 13-story residential and commercial project.

Inspiring VUE success

Pineapple Park Looms as Downtown Growth Epicenter

Ohio-based Isaac Group Holdings LLC earlier sealed a dealwith the city for the Pineapple Square development which would’ve brought in space for dozens of shops and offices, plus some 157 units added to listings of Sarasota condos for sale. These plans of the Ohio developer, however, were stalled by the last economic downturn, and it announced April 2015 that it is selling its rights to the project.

Kolter’s interest in Pineapple Square appears to have been bolstered by its success in the development of VUE Sarasota Bay, an 18-story luxury condominium being developed in tandem with a 255-room Westin Hotel. VUE sales were reported to have exceeded expectations, with only two dozen upscale condos now available out of the condominium’s 141. The condo and the hotel are expected to be completed in 2016.

“Pad Lite” expansion

The commercial real estate firm Hembree Associates is another major developer reported as girding to break ground near Pineapple Park. Since early 2015, Hembree has been in the thick of negotiations with city hall for the construction of a six-story “Pad Lite” which will serve as a liner building to the newly constructed State Street Parking Garage.

Notably, the city’s construction of this garage is one of the requisites for the Pineapple Square project to proceed. The liner Pad Lite building next to the parking garage is proposed also as a mixed use property with residential, commercial and office components. Hembree, in addition, is eying another parcel located in front of the Northern Trust parking garage which is at the corner of Lemon Avenue just east of Pineapple Park. The developer says its Pad Lite project could ideally be expanded to this city property which, Hembree claims, is not part of the park.

Potential spoiler

The organizers of the Farmers Market at Pineapple Park, however, disagree with Hembree’s plan to expand its proposed Pad Lite development. They have already launched a campaign called “Save Pineapple Park!” which urges the city not to sell the public property adjacent to the park.

This campaign not only relies on the backing of the Sarasota Farmers Market board of directors and patrons who have signed a petition to preserve Pineapple Park as it is. It has also gained the support of Save Our Sarasota, a green space advocacy group. Tapped as well for support to the Save Pineapple Park campaign are the merchants in neighboring Burns Square. Through such a concerted stand, it is hoped that the footprint of the popular downtown farmers market won’t be reduced any further following an eventual development of Pineapple Square.