EAST MANATEE -- For the first time in seven years, a commercial property developer is on the verge of building new retail space on the edge of Heritage Harbour.
Last week, the Starling Group in Sarasota filed a development application for a 12,500-square-foot retail center with Manatee County. Slated to be complete by mid-2016, the building will be the first commercial property built since Sarasota Memorial Hospital completed its 28,000-square-foot urgent care clinic there in 2008.
Heritage Harbour, the county's second-largest master planned community, has had a commercial component since its first homes opened in 2003. Commercial property owners in the community hold entitlements for about 1 million square feet of construction, according to county planning officials.
Heritage Harbour is just over half built out to a planned total of 5,000 homes. The subdivision saw development slow when the housing market crashed. That slowdown delayed plans the Starling Group had to build on 14 acres it purchased at the easternmost entrance to Heritage Harbour.
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Brian Kennelly, Starling's chief operating officer, said company officials are excited to get started with the retail project. It is intended to be the first part of several construction projects that will give the company a return on the nearly $3 million it spent to buy the Heritage Harbour land.
"It's long overdue," Kennelly said. "Slowdown in the market certainly impacted the timing of our development plans."
Plans filed with Manatee County show the proposed strip center at the northeast corner of the intersection of State Route 64 and Heritage Green Way. It could be home to up to seven businesses. Kennelly said Starling is in
talks with a couple of restaurant operators about leasing space in the building. Other possible businesses could include a nail salon, a dry cleaner or an insurance agency.
Businesses moving into the building will have to appeal to the growing Heritage Harbour community, Kennelly said.
"It'll be driven by the demand of the people living in Heritage Harbour," he said.
Plans on file show two more building lots on Starling's property fronting S.R. 64. Nine acres the company owns behind that property could be developed into medical office or general office space.
Commercial development has been delayed for so many years some Heritage Harbour residents have long stopped thinking about it. John Larranaga, who moved into Heritage Harbour in late 2003, did pay attention to plans that the community's developer, Lennar, had for the more than 100 acres it controls along S.R. 64. But he hadn't given much consideration to the possibility of small retail development popping up on smaller tracts of land.
"I never gave a second thought," he said.
Another longtime Heritage Harbour resident, Tom Bakalar, said he prefers the commercial land undeveloped.
"I'm very happy with the cows," he said. "I'm content with what we have."
But retail development has been coming quickly in the area. Across the road from Heritage Harbour, a new RaceTrac gas station and an RV park have been built in the past few months. Other properties between Interstate 75 and Lorraine Road are also getting interest.
Shelly Crofut, a broker with Sperry Van Ness Commercial Advisory Group, said 15-acres she has owned with several partners in that area since 2004 has gotten more interest in the past six months than any time in the past 11 years. In 2004, a grocery store pulled out of a potential deal to build on the land.
"There's definitely a huge interest in that stretch of Highway 64," Crofut said.
Starling's project will be under review for several months.
The company plans to break ground sometime in the fourth quarter of 2015. Kennelly said the construction budget for the building is about $2 million.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.