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Sarasota County Administration Center
Sarasota Monday, Nov. 15, 2021 6 months ago

County to sell downtown offices to Benderson for $25 million

Sarasota County intends to relocate from its Ringling Boulevard administrative center to a new facility near Interstate 75 by 2026.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

The County Commission voted unanimously Monday to sell the County Administration Center at 1660 Ringling Blvd. and two neighboring properties to Benderson Development for $25 million, another step toward relocating the county’s operational headquarters out of downtown Sarasota.

The approval of a sale and purchase agreement with Benderson is part of a process that began in December 2019, when Commissioner Al Maio led an effort to prioritize moving out of the Ringling offices. Maio said he continues to see relocation as a priority at Monday’s meeting, detailing the lengths county staff has taken to address issues with water leaking through the roof of the administrative center, constructed in 1973. County staff has estimated the facility would require $49 million in improvements over the next 20 years.

“It’s time to be out of this building,” Maio said.

Under the terms of the deal with Benderson, the county will have to wait a while longer before it can move elsewhere. The contract states the county must enter into a four-year lease to remain at the Ringling building, paying a rent of $1 million annually. During the lease, Benderson would be responsible for maintaining the roof and structure of the building, and the county would cover all other maintenance.

The county has the ability to terminate the lease with a six-month notice to Benderson, a point of interest for some commissioners who expressed a desire to relocate as soon as possible. The county has targeted the property at 1301 Cattlemen Road as a favored site for a new administrative center, though plans for a future facility have not yet been finalized. 

Benderson Director of Development Todd Mathes said the company has no set plans for the future of the property and will begin consideration of redevelopment options next year. Mathes said Benderson saw the acquisition of the county building as an opportunity to invest in downtown, noting plans for urban redevelopment on parcels adjacent to the Ringling Boulevard site.

Mathes said it would take some time to get to the point the property is ready for redevelopment, including navigating city land use regulations. Mathes acknowledged the county’s desire to move out prior to the expiration of the four-year lease if possible and said Benderson would be planning accordingly.

“When the county’s ready to make a move, we’ll hopefully be in a similar position,” Mathes said.

In addition to to the administrative offices, Benderson will also purchase the county-owned properties at 1646 Morrill St. and 1703 Morrill St. The sale agreement calls for the purchase to be finalized before the end of the year.

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