Blocking the Vue?

vue 1

The Vue condominium, now going up on Gulf Stream Avenue in downtown Sarasota, has a lot of people craning their necks and scratching their heads. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 4-19-2016.

​The most-asked question in Sarasota today might be, “How did that condo tower get so close to the street?”

The tower is the Vue Sarasota Bay, part of the Kolter Group’s development on U.S. 41 at Gulf Stream Ave. Going up right next to it is a Westin hotel, and they are close to the highway, really close.

People want to know why.

The story has a lot of twists and turns, but it can be traced back to the city's hiring of noted New Urbanist city planner Andres Duany in 2000 to come up with a plan to make the city more walkable, more urban and more modern.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Andres Duany visits Sarasota in 2013 and doesn't hate it

As a result of his recommendations, downtown was rezoned in 2005. “As part of that whole master-plan process that was done with Andres Duany,” said Gretchen Scheider, general manager of planning and development for the City of Sarasota, “the concept is to have buildings closer to the street so that there is a more walkable feel with interaction with the building.”

The code for buildings in primary streets (those meant to be most walkable) calls for a maximum building setback of 5 feet at the ground floor, Schneider said. On secondary streets, there is no maximum setback, but it does allow properties to be built up to the property line.

Going up: A Westin hotel in downtown Sarasota. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 4-19-2016.

Going up: A Westin hotel in downtown Sarasota. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 4-19-2016.

“For a good portion of the building, they are required to have it up to that distance” from the sidewalk, Schneider said. “It does meet the code."

She said the 5-foot sidewalk will be widened to 8 to 10 feet along the Tamiami Trail, and a landscape strip will be added to provide a “sense of protection for the pedestrians as they are walking down the street,” Schneider said.

As for the current outcry, Schneider said, “A lot of this happened so long ago that a lot of our current residents are not aware. A lot of this follows what Duany recommended for the city; the city adopted the zoning code with those requirements and limitations, but a lot of folks weren’t here then.”

Well, we are a big city now. That is what Duany said, when he suggested that we grow up, take off our shorts and put on pants, and that’s what we wanted. Now we are getting it.

More on this in my Sunday column in the Herald-Tribune.

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: April 21, 2016
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