Shaking off concerns about the sluggish housing market, a Sarasota development team is planning a $25 million mix of condominiums and retail space just north of downtown. Citrus Square Inc.’s plans for a “new urbanist” blend of 37 residential units and 23,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space on Orange Avenue, from Fourth Street to Sixth Street, marks the second such fusion proposed for the area.

Citrus Square’s units will sell for between $260,000 for a one-bedroom, 550-square-foot unit to around $550,000 for a 1,250-square-foot, two bedroom, two bathroom condo. The partners hope to begin construction on the 1.5-acre Citrus Square within six months, and complete the first phase of the project in late 2008. The property is presently occupied by a collection of older, single-family homes.

The planned three-story project, being designed by Jonathan Parks Architect, will be marketed primarily to young professionals, so-called “empty nester” baby boomers and retirees. Michael Saunders & Co. has been tapped to handle residential sales. Citrus Square Inc. will retain ownership of the commercial space.

“Citrus Square is just the sort of pedestrian-friendly, live-work-play neighborhood that makes cities like New York’s Chelsea and Greenwich Village such wonderful and stimulating places to live,” said Michael Saunders, the brokerage firm’s founder and president. “This will be a fabulous new addition to the ever-changing, ever more enjoyable downtown Sarasota,” Saunders said. “I can’t wait.”

Plans for Citrus Square cap more than seven years of planning and property acquisitions. Birkhold has owned property in the area since 2002, county property records show.

In addition, the partners also own various parcels around where Citrus Square will rise, including three of the four corners at the intersection of Orange Avenue and Sixth Street. Eventually, they hope to develop other projects that will both blend in with Citrus Square’s design and expand the “new urbanist” feel of the area.

(Source: Sarasota Herald Tribune)