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10 to Contend: Bob Morris

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  • | 5:00 a.m. December 30, 2009
  • Sarasota
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Bob Morris hopes to succeed where others have failed.

Morris is part of a team that hopes to develop the former Quay site. He and his partners, Mark Famiglio, Burton “Skip” Sack and Chuck Madden, formed CMR Bayside Associates and expect to close on the property by the end of 2010.

“We don’t know for sure what this project is going to become,” he said.

What it won’t become is the condo/retail/office/hotel that Patrick Kelly envisioned when he bought the site in 2004 and demolished the Quay building, then bought the adjacent El Vernona condos in 2006, which doubled the project size.

Kelly’s timing was bad. Hit by the recession, he was not able to keep up with his loans.

According to Morris, Kelly’s inability to start construction on his high-rise buildings is the best thing that could have happened to that site.

“You would have had a mini Miami,” he said. “Residential towers sitting there vacant.”

Developer Zeb Portanova asked Morris in February to help him contact Kelly, because Portanova wanted to move his Proscenium project to Kelly’s property. In July, Portanova signed a purchase contract, but was unable to close on the deal.

Morris said his group then began negotiations with Portanova and the bank to purchase the bank’s mortgages on the property for cash for “30 to 50 cents on the dollar,” putting the purchase price between $28 million and $48 million. Morris said Kelly’s group had mortgages on the property totaling about $96 million.

Real-estate deals are nothing new to Morris. After coming to Sarasota in 2002, he formed the Rooks Morris Real Estate company with his father-in-law, Howard Rooks.

The company was sold to Prudential Palms Realty in January.

“That was a life changer,” said Morris. “I was working more than full-time.

Morris now spends his time managing his properties, which include Cork restaurant, on St. Armands Circle, small apartment complexes in Sarasota and a 56,000-square-foot shopping center in Bradenton, and working on his new venture on the bayfront.

Will Morris, Famiglio, Sack and Madden be able to do at the Quay what Kelly and Portanova were not?
Morris cites one reason why he believes they will. The others had visions that they were imposing on the site.

“We are letting the vision come to us,” he said, meaning that by the time they are ready to build, which could be at least two years away, the community’s needs may change, so their plans would change.

Amenities that are being considered include a hotel, conference center, event arena, retail and a small number of condos.

Also being considered is a public-private partnership, in which a government entity, similar to the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport Authority, might own the property, with a private company operating it.

But all those are just ideas at this point — nothing is firm yet.

Morris said Kelly’s vision for the former Quay site was only aimed at maximizing profits. His group will be better for Sarasota, he said.

“Four local people who care about this community are in control of this property now,” said Morris. “Not someone just trying to make as much money as possible.”

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected]

Age: 46
Hometown: Indianapolis
Came to Sarasota: 2002
Favorite part of Sarasota: St. Armands
Hobby: Running
Interesting fact: Was a Marine officer and Eagle Scout. “They’re two things I’m most proud of,” said Morris.
Passion: Wife and two kids



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