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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real EstateFlorida.)

SARASOTA, FL-The developer of the $1-billion Proscenium project here has engaged Carlton Advisory Services Inc. as equity and debt advisor to secure approximately $100 million of senior bridge financing. The money would be used to cover land acquisition and pre-development costs.

Key to the ambitious mixed-use project by Lion’s Gate Development is a 225-unit Waldorf-Astoria luxury hotel, one of two 18-story landmarks that would be added to the Downtown Sarasota skyline by late 2010. The project also includes a 59-room Waldorf-Astoria annex on Lido Beach, seven miles from the mainland site.

The presence of a Waldorf-Astoria hotel, which will include 211 ultra-luxury residences plus a Guerlain Spa, boosts Proscenium’s chances for success, says Kenneth Herzberg, director of Carlton Advisory. He notes that Hilton Hotels Corp. is promoting Waldorf-Astoria as its premium brand in upscale markets.

“Sarasota is a very affluent area with a lot of money and a lot of culture, and that is certainly a good brand for the area,” Herzberg tells GlobeSt.com. “That’s the driver of the project, that’s what gets people most interested.”

Other commercial components of Proscenium include 300,000 sf of class A office space, 130,000 sf of upscale retail and restaurants and the 800-seat Nederlander Performing Arts Center. Herzberg says Lion’s Gate is considering increasing the amount of retail space and scaling back the office component. “We have attracted significant interest on the retail side,” he says.

Lion’s Gate’s management team on its Proscenium project includes Perkins Eastman Architects and Koniver Stern Group, a leading retail consulting and leasing firm. Sotheby’s International Realty has also been brought on board to sell the residential units.

Carlton Advisory, founded in 1991, is a national real estate investment banking firm specializing in passive equity for real estate and related fund vehicles. The firm claims at least $40 billion in loan consummations over the last ten years.

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