As three private developments plan to break ground along State Street and Lemon Avenue, the Sarasota Farmers Market is discussing relocating a number of vendors.
The continued growth in downtown Sarasota comes with its share of side effects — including, potentially, the relocation of dozens of Sarasota Farmers Market vendors that traditionally operate south of Main Street.
Phil Pagano, the market’s executive director, announced Sunday that he is asking the city to consider a plan to move up to 60 vendors on Lemon Avenue and State Street, citing impending construction as the impetus for a new layout.
In a release, Pagano listed First Street between Lemon and Orange avenues as a potential new home for those vendors. He said both vendors and customers have expressed concerns about the future of the market given the plans for multiple developments in the area.
“It cannot work during construction there,” Pagano said.
Pagano said he’s had a preliminary meeting with city officials regarding a potential move about a month ago. There is at least one major logistical concern associated with that segment of First Street: the Sarasota County Area Transit bus terminal, located at the northeast corner of the First and Lemon intersection.
He’s still attempting to schedule a more substantive discussion, but city leaders are hopeful the situation might resolve itself without major changes.
City spokeswoman Jan Thornburg said the city is still waiting on official construction plans for the projects in development and that staff is optimistic an agreement can be reached between the parties that plan to operate along State and Lemon.
“Right now, we would think the private developer would be working with the market to make sure they can still use that area they’re using,” Thornburg said.
The Mark, an 11-story development on State Street with 157 condominium units, 35,000 square feet of retail space and 11,000 square feet of office space is the biggest project planning to break ground in the area. When developer Kolter Urban purchased the land, formerly part of Pineapple Square, Project Manager David Arent said the company hoped to begin construction by early 2017.
Across the street, commercial real estate firm Hembree and Associates is working on a pair of projects. In April, the firm applied for a building permit for the “pad lite” parcel next to the State Street garage. That six-story project would include 20 residential units, as well as 25,000 square feet of office space and 5,040 square feet of retail.
In February, the city agreed to sell Hembree and Associates an adjoining property next to Pineapple Park for $260,000. The company plans to construct a two-story building, likely a restaurant, on the 5,049-square-foot parcel.
Hembree and Associates President Joe Hembree said the group is working closely with city staff on the permitting process, hoping to break ground by July or August on the 1500 State St. project. Despite Pagano’s consternation about the impending construction, Hembree hasn’t heard from farmers market organizers about coordinating the construction with the weekly event.
Hembree declined to comment on the future of the farmers market at State and Lemon, but he said his group is focused on developing its properties in a considerate manner.
“We’re working with the city to minimize our effects as much as we can,” Hembree said.
Despite the city’s belief that the developers could reach an agreement with the farmers market, Pagano is convinced that construction will pose too great a challenge to continue operating around State and Lemon. Pagano said the construction of the State Street garage, completed in 2015, was indicative of the type of safety and logistical issues future projects would present.
“They did a great job trying to work with us, but toward the end they started having more and more construction on Saturdays,” Pagano said.
Last year, the farmers market began a conversation about targeting a new, permanent home as the weekly event continues to grow. Currently, the market is conducting an economic impact study regarding the event’s contribution to the city.
Pagano said market officials are still considering the best path for the event’s future, but he believes First Street is an appealing long-term home for vendors. Once the construction is complete on State and Lemon, it’s unclear whether that portion of downtown will continue to be a good fit for the farmers market, he said.
“I think that’s up to the retailers that go in there and the residents that are living in the condos,” Pagano said. “To go back, it would have to be OK with all parties.”