Former Quay site could hit the market again

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- A Jacksonville developer appears to be pulling out of negotiations with the Irish government over the former Sarasota Quay property. The site once featured a retail building that was built in 1985, but the land has sat vacant since the Sarasota Quay was knocked down in 2007.

More recently, an Irish developer had planned to build a billion dollar project that would have included condos, a hotel, shops and restaurants. But the project went bust during the Great Recession, and the Irish government -- which provided a loan to the Dublin-based developer -- took control of the property.

Now we're learning talks broke down between the Irish government and a Jacksonville-based developer, meaning the property will go back on the market.

The lack of development continues to cause frustration and confusion among area residents. The empty piece of prime bayfront property sits among some of the most well-known establishments along the bay, including the Ritz Carlton, Hyatt Regency, and Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Its vacancy for 7 years now has not gone unnoticed by the community.

"It's disappointing because the property is such a beautiful piece of property,” says Kimberly Duffy, co-owner of The Toasted Mango Café.

Frustration is the shared sentiment among many business owners and residents.

Now that a second attempt to develop has failed, locals who enjoyed Quay say they don't see much hope for the future of the property. Sarasota resident John Montefusco says he hopes that a developer will bring back the entertainment and fine dining he and so many used to enjoy. "I used to go there and dance every weekend because they had two places. One was jazz down under, and the other one, upstairs was the disco."

The Jacksonville developer decided to back out after their request for a 30-year extension to develop the property was denied by city commissioners.

"When you authorize an unrealistic development plan, you don't encourage development you prevent development," says Sarasota city commissioner Susan Chapman.

The city says the proposed $1 billion project for condos, stores, and a hotel was too dense for the property, and did not provide a plan to deal with traffic and walkability.

But the failed venture has both city and tourism officials confident in the future of the property. "We're looking at it as a huge positive. Yes, it's frustrating and been a long process, but we have to remember when you look at the great projects, in cities across this country, they've taken years to develop," says Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County.

The city says they already have a committee in the works, putting together a cultural district master plan to plan development for that entire area.