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Sarasota Monday, May 31, 2021 1 year ago

County takes first step to sell administration center

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The county will list the administration center property as surplus land as it prepares to move to another location.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

Sarasota County leaders will soon break out the moving boxes and head east, vacating their downtown headquarters. 

County Commissioners are moving forward with plans for a new administration center on a parcel of county-owned land at 1301 Cattlemen Road. 

With a unanimous vote, commissioners declared the parcels the current headquarters and related buildings sit on at 1660 Ringling Blvd. and 1646 and 1703 Morrill St. as surplus. However, county staff will continue to work on the property until a new administration building can be constructed. 

Commissioner Christian Ziegler said he was in favor of a new building as long as the cost isn't too high.

The move means county leaders can now explore the market value of the downtown location, which Commissioner Ron Cutsinger said will help the board make decisions on the future center. 

“I think we’ve touched on a lot of numbers about what we think this facility and the properties might be worth, but we really don’t know for sure,” Cutsinger said. “I think it’s a good idea to get this out there and find out what numbers we are actually talking about.” 

Chair Al Maio, who has consistently expressed his support of a new administration center, made the motion after passing the gavel to vice chair Christian Ziegler. 

Commissioners have long talked about switching facilities due to the increasing cost of keeping the current administration center running. 

The building was constructed in 1973 and county staff estimated maintenance and renovation cost projections for the next 10 years at $32.5 million and the next 20 years at $49 million. 

“This is a defensive move,” Commissioner Mike Moran said. “We’re talking $50 million to the taxpayer over the next couple decades to keep this building going. It’s just a smart business move.”

During a presentation to the board, director of capital projects Carolyn Eastwood said the new building would be four stories and 120,000 square feet. It also would have 320 parking spaces surround the building.

A second concept plan showed another four-story structure to be built in the future. It would have 70,000 square feet to accommodate more offices and a 388-space parking garage would be built next to it. 

The initial building house the commissioners and staff, offices of the Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller, county administrator, the Office of the County Attorney, the Officie of Financial Management, Library Administration, communications and human resources. 

It would cost approximately $72 million.

The board’s charter cap is $24.5 million, which means the board could seek a voter referendum to in November 2022. 

Although they intend to add increased technology and additional administrative space to the new facility, Ziegler said he doesn’t want the cost to be astronomical. 

“At first I thought, ‘Do we really need to go spend all this money on an administrative building for staff,’ but this isn’t going to be a Taj Mahal project,” Ziegler said. “ … as long as we keep the cost down, I’ll be happy to support it.” 

Eastwood said if the commission moves ahead with the project soon, the new administration project could be open in July of 2025. 

The location of the proposed parcel would place the new administration center next to the county’s Emergency Operations Center and Historical Resources Department. 

However, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office also had eyes on the property. Leaders hoped to develop the parcel, which has easy access to Interstate 75, into a public safety complex. 

The department’s current complex at 6010 Cattleridge Blvd. is not large enough to accommodate the department’s needs. Sheriff Kurt Hoffman said the old sheriff structure was about 193,980 square feet while the current is 72,000 square feet. 

Commissioners proposed the department expand on neighboring parcels to the Cattleridge property, but Hoffman in April said stormwater issues would prevent development on the land. 

Since then, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis said the county has negotiated with the department to identify two other Cattleridge parcels that would serve the department’s needs. 

“As long as those two sites accommodate the department’s needs, [Hoffman is] happy,” Lewis said. 

Eastwood will be back in front of commissioner June 8 with a formal resolution defining the terms of the surplus property. 

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