UNIVERSITY PARK -- After months of plan revisions and discussion, the Sarasota County Commission unanimously approved an updated plan Tuesday for Benderson Development Co.'s property in University Park.
By approving an amendment to Sarasota's comprehensive plan, the commissioners OK'd redistributing commercial land use and high density residential land use for the 281-acre property southwest of The Mall at University Town Center.
Benderson Development seeks to build 600,000 more square feet of retail space and 100,000 square feet of office space. Some residential structures are also planned.
The future land-use policy was also updated to reflect caps on property size and timing.
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The maximum development potential through build-out for the property ultimately caps at 2.6 million square feet in 2019. Development in 2015 and between 2015 and 2019 is phased so it does not expand more than 484,000 square feet in one year.
Benderson Development already has close to 800,000 square feet of retail space in Manatee County in University Park. Benderson Development was a major player in developing the 880,000-square-foot Mall at University Town Center and several hundred thousand square feet in the nearby District at University Town Center.
The development caps and phased plan are meant to address traffic concerns commissioners and members of the public expressed during
Tuesday's public hearing and previous public hearings. Environmental concerns have also been an issue.
To mitigate the impacted wetlands, Benderson Development wants to turn land it owns in Manatee County near Cooper Creek Boulevard and Interstate 75 into a conservation easement.
As a part of the revised plan presented Tuesday, Benderson removed potential for 120 residential units and will instead use the land parcel as a preservation area.
Receiving approval from Southwest Florida Water Management District regarding the wetland mitigation is one "turnstyle" remaining for Benderson Development, said Todd Mathes, Benderson's director of development, but "they've participated in the process and haven't said there is a show stopper."
Though a few commissioners still had questions, Commissioner Paul Caragiulo said he feels better about the updated land-use and environmental mitigation.
"I think this is a responsible plan and fits with activities occurring in that area," Caragiulo said.
Tuesday's approval gives Benderson Development the ability to continue construction and what Mathes said was "the most important part" of the process.
"It gives us the ability to plan for the build-out of the project and make commitments of tenants," he said.
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.