Mira Mar Plaza again in danger, owner launches new demonstration building effort

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) – Months ago, the Historic Preservation Board said no when developers presented a plan to tear down the Mira Mar Plaza building on Palm Avenue, but now the owner is stepping forward to try to convince them himself.

The Mira Mar Plaza is again threatened.

Tenants working inside the nearly 100-year-old building were surprised by an email Monday afternoon from building management letting them know the landlord still intends to raze the structure, months after the city chose to protect her.

In June, Seaward Development wanted to buy the square, presenting a plan to the Historic Preservation Board asking for permission to demolish the old building and replace it with a 10-story residential and commercial structure with a style reminiscent of the Mira Mar.

At the time, they cited extensive damage throughout the building that would cost $22 million to repair, but the board still voted against demolition in a unanimous decision.

Months later, the owner of the place takes over the business. The email sent to the tenants explains that “substantial deficiencies” in the structure make it impossible to maintain, so he plans to reapply for a demolition permit.

The news does not sit well with many tenants who have lived in the old building for years, including Robert Kahne, chief investment officer at Benjamin F. Edwards.

“The idea of ​​moving is difficult,” he told us as we sat in his office on the first floor.

Kahne has been doing business here for seven years and has enjoyed his time. He has three years left on his lease, which management told him he would be able to finish unless a safety hazard arises forcing an early departure.

“Not happy,” Kahne said. “It’s a disruption we don’t need. The markets are tough enough already.

He thinks leaving would be a shame, but maybe he has no choice. Dr. Mark Kauffman, the general partner who oversees Mira Mar Plaza, says he sees no way out but to close up shop.

Over the past year, inspectors have found wood rot and termite damage throughout the building, which Seaward Development presented to the Historic Preservation Board in June. Kauffman told ABC7 it would take a long time to fix the building if he had the $22 million, but that’s not the case – and he said the structure itself was only worth around $2 million.

“If you can get us the $22 million to fix it, we’ll do it,” he laughed.

The building, Kauffman said, is safe at this time, but he expects it to continue to deteriorate and eventually become unsafe. He thinks it’s best for all tenants to finish their leases within about three years and find new space.

“This building will last a year, of course,” he said. “Two, three years, probably. Five years, maybe. Fifteen years, no doubt. So he will die.

Debbie Goldberg, sitting in her office on the second floor, hopes that won’t happen. She wants someone to come forward to support Kauffman by forgoing the $22 million and keeping the place going, possibly in the form of grants.

“Because it’s so worth it,” said Goldberg, co-owner of Giving Tree Gallery. “We are definitely tearing down a lot of buildings in Sarasota and it would be nice to keep some of them.”

Kauffman insists that Mira Mar Plaza has no historical designation, pointing out that although the building is almost a century old, it was redone in the 80s, so the entire structure is not original. We asked the city, and a spokesperson told us the plaza was “eligible for both national and local historic designation,” but the decision on demolition ultimately rests with the Historic Preservation Board.

Kauffman plans to argue for a demolition permit with the board of trustees fairly soon, and if it’s denied again, he plans to appeal to the city commissioners.

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