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Bank of America will move into a new smaller building currently under construction at the southeast corner of Fruitville Road and U.S. 301.
Sarasota Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 5 years ago

Bank move opens up commercial space


Bank of America is moving from the first floor of a 13-story tower at Main Street and Orange Avenue to a smaller, newly constructed building on Fruitville Road.

The bank’s shift a few blocks east could bring big changes to Main Street —including the possibility of more retail.

In March, the bank’s downtown branch will move out of the Ellis Building, one of downtown’s most prominent towers, and free up more than 27,000 square feet of commercial space.

The bank is moving into a 5,000-square-foot building that is currently under construction at the southeast corner of Fruitville Road and U.S. 301. Bank of America will also relocate one of its branches, now situated at the corner of U.S. 301 and 13th Street, to the new building at 1990 Fruitville Road.

“Both of the banks were less than one mile away,” said Bank of America Corp. spokesperson Diane Wagner. “So that’s why they were consolidated.”

The move opens nearly one block of mid-Main Street commercial space to potential tenants.

Larry Fienberg, with Benderson Development Co., which owns the Ellis Building, said Benderson has been in contact with several potential tenants interested in the vacant space.

Fineberg said that when Bank of America first announced the departure, Benderson officials were almost 100% certain they would target another bank to fill the large first-floor space and put its name on the tower.
But, now, the real-state company has a new strategy.

“It wasn’t a high-energy space,” Fineberg said about the Bank of America space on the first floor. “It is a large, cavernous space that didn’t generate a lot of traffic. We are looking for something that will do the opposite.”

Although Benderson is still considering leasing to another bank, if the real-estate company does so, it will be for a much smaller bank — less than one-forth of the area occupied by Bank of America — leaving room for stores or other commercial uses.

In addition to the ground floor, the top two floors, the 12th floor and the penthouse, are also available. The 12th floor, formerly the University Club, which closed its doors in 2009, has been renovated to make way for a prospective tenant.

The most visible real estate, however, is outside the building in the form of naming rights to the top of the tower viewable from the north and south. Currently, Bank of America owns the rights, but they, too, will become available.

Fineberg said the goal is to find tenants that will draw pedestrians and create “an energy” on mid-Main, which has less activity than busy lower Main Street near Five Points Park and upper Main Street near Regal Hollywood 20 movie theater.

“It would make sense for retail on that first floor,” Fineberg said.

Benderson is interested in finding long-term renters.

“It’s not just about filling it,” Fineberg said. “It’s about finding the right tenants.”

Ruben-Holland Development is building the new Fruitville branch of Bank of America. The bank building sits next to a recently-constructed Staples office supply store. Ruben-Holland also developed the Staples.

Wagner noted that although some customers bank online, or even on their smart phones, many still prefer to come in and bank in person. A mortgage loan officer and financial adviser will also be based out of the Fruitville Road bank.

“The downtown branch will close Friday, March 1, 2013,” Wagner said. “The new location on Fruitville road will open Monday, March 4.

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