EAST COUNTY — As Trent and Lesa Miller walk through the parking lot of The K Center, better known as home to the State Road 64 Dunkin’ Donuts location, the couple, in many ways, feels like it’s looking at one big moldable lump of clay.
The Millers, residents of Lakewood Ranch and local attorneys, recently closed on the 42,000-square-foot, eight-building K Center for $1.85 million, purchasing the project out of foreclosure from Stearns Bank National Association. Now, the couple has visions to turn a portion of the plaza into The Florida Mediation and Conference Center.
Existing tenants, including the Dunkin’ Donuts, Smarty Pants Preschool and D Americo’s Pizzeria, among others, would remain in place. Trent and Lesa Miller moved their respective law practices, Miller & Miller and the Work Comp Group, into offices at the plaza Feb. 22.
The Millers now plan to build out the plaza’s remaining three unfinished buildings to create the mediation and conference center — a project they expect will take up to eight months to complete.
“We came across the opportunity to put our law firms in it and take the distressed property and make it something (special),” Trent Miller said. “It’s a big undertaking, but it’s exciting.”
The Millers paid for the plaza using a Small Business Administration loan, which requires their businesses to occupy 51% of the total property. With their own offices only consuming about 5,000 square feet in one building, the Millers began brainstorming.
Having considered becoming mediators for several years and having represented clients during mediations, the couple recognized a local need for a venue both for mediations, as well as local mediators. Attorneys are hard-pressed to find neutral sites for client mediations, and often one law firm hosts the mediation at its office, the Millers said.
“There’s no mediation conference center, per se, in Sarasota/Manatee,” Trent Miller said, noting the space also can be used for depositions and meetings and eventually will offer video conferencing and training space. “We expect construction (on our center) to start any day. (For) the 16,000 square feet we are building out, we’re also soliciting subtenants — mediators, court reporters or anyone who could use the facilities.”
The Millers hope to have a roster of mediators affiliated with the center, as well, and both plan to become bar-approved mediators, themselves. Tag Feld, an attorney with Lesa Miller’s practice, will get certified, too.
As the conference center is being built, the Millers plan to spruce up the plaza’s landscaping and also eventually plan to revamp its sign, which now can be taller because of changes to Manatee County’s signage regulations. They may eventually change the name of the center, as well, but there are no plans to do so, at this time.
— Sean Roth contributed to this report.
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