Plan to Demolish Historic Mira Mar Building Rejected by Board
The proposal by local developer, Seaward Development, to raze the Mira Mar building and construct a new project was voted down by the Sarasota Historic Preservation Board. The decision came at a June 14 meeting.
Seaward, in its presentation, stated that the building has structural issues and that it would be too costly to repair and update the current building. The Mira Mar was built in 1922 and over the years have been renovated, updated, and rebuilt. The building was turned down for National Historic Designation in 1983, a decision that was reached because the extensive renovations destroyed several historic elements.
The current owner ordered inspections by engineers as part of the due diligence for the sale. The inspections revealed the multiple renovations. The engineers also reported that the foundations of the 100-year-old wood frame are significantly undersized and there badly corroded structural wood studs, widespread wood rot and insect damage, and other extensive damage. The Sarasota County Property Appraiser assessed the value of the building at $2 million, while the repairs needed will be in excess of $22 million.
"Unfortunately, Mira Mar has now passed its useful life and a confluence of situations have led to the professional realization that repairs and restoration are not a fiscal option for the permanent sustained future," said Dr. Mark Kauffman, current owner of the building. "If demolition is not allowed, we will allow leases to run out over next two years then close the building and fence it off, and allow it to decay, as we cannot afford the repairs anymore…it would be fiscally prudent and more sustaining to demo the building, and replace the 40-year-old replica, with a new replica. We respect history. We love history. As do the new buyers. The perfect storm has led to this situation and with public patience and understanding we will have the permanent beautiful solution."
The members of the board, while acknowledging the structural issues and potential safety concerns, feel it is premature to demolish the building at this point. The city inspector visited the building and has reached out to the engineer of record for the building but has not made a formal response or recommendation. The board’s preference at this time is to see if recommendations by the inspector and engineers will work.
Local citizens also objected to the proposal, feeling that tearing down the building would alter the historic character of downtown Sarasota, and the board agreed. The Mira Mar is viewed by many as symbol of Sarasota’s early boom days. Seaward officials expressed that they share that sentiment, which guided them in their design process.
Their plan is to construct a 10-story residential/retail building, which would include 70 residential units. Seaward’s vision is to have two floors of retail space with frontage along Palm Avenue. In keeping with the original look and design of the property, the residential space will be set back behind the commercial space.
Seward officials have the option of appealing the decision to the Sarasota City Commission. They stated that they will take a step back before making a decision on whether to appeal.