Mainsail’s Waterline promises change to downtown Holmes Beach

Mainsail Lodging and Development’s future project may change the face of downtown Holmes Beach.

City officials and nearby business owners speculate the Waterline resort — previously named Mainsail — will impact vehicular traffic flow, increase pedestrian traffic and change the aesthetics of the area.

Norwood Smith, Mainsail Lodging and Development’s vice president of sales and marketing, said it was never the intention to name the resort after the company.

“Naming is only one part of a critical branding process on which we’re embarking. Our mission will be to connect our guests and local residents with the authenticity that represents the ‘Anna Maria Island experience.’ Waterline, as we will define it, is where two things come together as one,” Smith wrote in an email.

The new name for the long-planned project goes along with what will be a new look for the area, he said.

Plans for the resort include multiple buildings reaching the city’s height restriction of 36 feet. Holmes Beach building official Jon Betcher and Commission Chair Judy Titsworth said undoubtedly the project will impact the area visually.

“It will change the look because you’re going to have height where you didn’t have height before,” Titsworth said. “I think removing them from the spit helped tremendously. No other building can be built that close to the water.”

Construction was planned on a small peninsula on the property in the original project’s site plan. Mediation following a legal dispute between the city and the developer resulted in elimination of the building on the peninsula — and a view of the channel to the bay from Marina Drive.

Before he was ousted from office, former Mayor Rich Bohnenberger and former police chief — also the city’s traffic engineer — Jay Romine, were in the process of seeking grants to add crosswalks and create a more pedestrian-friendly, walkable downtown.

Former Mayor Carmel Monti proposed allowing commercial businesses operating on boats in the basin. He then created a city center committee that focused on improving the visual appeal and walkability of downtown with the nearing development in mind.

The committee brainstormed and discussed planter boxes, vendors and pedestrian crosswalks. They produced sketches, but never pursued their ideas.

A business owner’s group also proposed a plan, including a roundabout at the Gulf-Marina drives intersection, but it was never adopted by the city.

Increased pedestrian traffic from Waterline may bring more customers to downtown businesses, said business-owner Beverly Lesnick of Island Coffee Haus, 5350 Gulf Drive.

“I’m excited. I can’t wait. I think it’s going to bring more people into the downtown area,” Lesnick said. “Hopefully they’ll make it more pedestrian friendly.”

Titsworth shared concerns about pedestrian safety, specifically at the right-turn lane on Gulf Drive to Marina Drive. The intersection has no crosswalk and the turn lane traffic does not stop.

She said one challenge is that any change to curbing, sidewalks or crosswalks must address stormwater runoff. She added that the congestion committee broached the subject but delayed planning until members knew what Mainsail would do with either pedestrian walkways or connectivity between the adjacent shopping plazas.

“It’s such a limited space, I hope we can all be creative and come up with something that works,” Titsworth said.

She said she felt the developers would be interested in working with the city to make the area safer for pedestrians.

“We believe that Waterline will elevate and enhance the sense of arrival for visitor and locals alike. The resort, along with a fully activated marina, will be the official welcome mat for Holmes Beach,” Smith wrote.

The realization of the project is a long time coming. Initial plans included a site plan drafted and approved in 2001. A turnover in the board of commissioners in the 2012 election resulted in challenges to the plans. Commissioners approved an amended site plan in August 2014.

The approval came after mediation — a result of litigation between the city and developer — producing a settlement agreement.

According to the agreement, Mainsail has one year from the Aug. 26 approval to apply for its initial building permit. Betcher said Mainsail has not submitted new specs or permit applications.

Mainsail also was required to apply for a demolition permit within 60 days of the approval to remove footers and rebar that are not part of the project.

According to the building department, Mainsail has not applied for that permit. Betcher said to his knowledge no footers or rebar have been removed from the site.

Betcher said he didn’t “see anything in the books that conveys authority or stipulates what happens if they don’t comply” to the settlement agreement. Direction on further action would be deferred to the commission, he said.

Meanwhile, Smith said Mainsail expects construction of Waterline to begin in March or April and be completed by mid-summer of 2016.

The resort will include three connected buildings containing 37 two-bedroom guest apartments, a 50-slip marina, pool and deck, and an 80-seat restaurant. A total of 98 parking spaces are required.

The guest apartment units will occupy the upper two floors of the three connected three-story buildings. The ground floor of the main building will provide space for the restaurant, meeting rooms, a gift shop, a business center and workout facility.