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City announces new safety measures, inspections for Mira Mar Plaza

The City of Sarasota is working to understand the full range of issues facing the 100-year-old...
The City of Sarasota is working to understand the full range of issues facing the 100-year-old building after the Historic Preservation Board put a stop to plans for a demolition.(Shane Battis)
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 6:04 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The City of Sarasota is adding new safety measures at the Mira Mar Plaza as the city continues to inspect the 100-year-old building.

Earlier this week, plans to demolish the building were halted. Seaward Development, a local development company, planned to replace the structure with 10-story building hosting commercial and residential properties, but the Historic Preservation Board voted unanimously against the plan, citing the building’s historic value.

However, it needs a lot of work.

Engineers, at the request of Seaward Development, outlined how the plaza needs $22 million in repairs, much of the damage linked to wood rot, termite damage and an undersized foundation. The development company presented those findings to the Historic Preservation Board ahead of the vote, but it didn’t dissuade board members.

The city’s building official did a walkthrough with that engineer this week, according to a spokesperson with the city, then recommended sections of the building be “shored without delay,” noting the second level connecting bridge in particular needs attention.

As extensive as the damage is, the engineer does not believe the Mira Mar is at risk of collapsing.

ABC7 spoke to a handful of tenants and employees working inside the building. The people we spoke to feel safe and haven’t noticed serious problems within the walls of their businesses, but they understand the problems are stacking up.

“So, we’ll see how it all ends up panning out,” Camilyn Leavitt, the owner of Camilyn Beth, said. “We just want the best for the building, for people’s safety and Palm Avenue as well.”

Howard Katz, who works as a sales associate at Greiner’s Fine Men’s Clothing, sees only one way the drama surrounding the plaza ends: a demolition one way or the other.

“In my opinion, personally, I don’t think the building is going to fall down,” he said. “But I also think within 3-5 years this won’t be here, and there will be at least two to three 10-story buildings with retail on the bottom.”

Going forward, the city will need a full report on the entire building’s condition before they decide how to proceed.

Even with the inspections aside, there’s a lot of questions swirling around the future of the plaza. Seaward Development passed on a statement to ABC7 from the building’s current owner, Dr. Mark Kauffman, who has said he can’t afford the $22 million repairs in his building. He has said he’ll let the leases run out, fence off the plaza and “allow it to decay” unless the new buyers can take the plaza off his hands and demolish it.

We asked the city what they would do in that scenario and a spokesperson said there’s Code Compliance has a lot of tools at their disposal to make sure that doesn’t happen. Daily fines are one of the methods the city could employ to make sure the building doesn’t fall into disrepair and become a nuisance to the community.

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