Big plans for Sarasota's Rosemary District

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SARASOTA, FL   It's a part of Sarasota, just north of Fruitville in the downtown area, that's been waiting years for a boost.  The Rosemary District is a quiet area, some say awaiting someone to help it reach it's potential.  Wednesday night may have been the first step.

Developer's attorney Bill Merrill is asking the planning board to approve "City Side,"  four hundred apartments on Cocoanut near Boulevard of the Arts.

But Merrill isn't just asking the planning board to approve this project, he needs them to start the wheels in motion to amend the city's comprehensive plan and zoning plan. That would require state involvement.

Cornelius Thomas lives nearby. He thinks building apartments here will help nearby businesses.

"It would bring a lot of people and into the businesses surrounding it," he said.

Developers want to create the Rosemary Residential Overlay District between Cocoanut, 10th, Orange and Fruitville--an area that would be allowed to have 75 apartments per acre--three times what is currently allowed.

Natasha Bowers lives nearby and likes the concept.

"Yes, it's a good idea because a lot of people don't have apartments to rent," she said.

Another developer plans to approach the city on Monday to build 40 apartments, retails, a boutique theater and a town square between Boulevard of the Arts and 5th Street. It may be called "Rosemary Square."

Developer's attorney Merrill thinks it's time.

"The Rosemary District right now is somewhat run down and it needs to be revitalized," Merrill said.