Sarasota County and Benderson Development Co. have finalized a deal for the sale of the downtown County Administration Building which provides for its lease until 2025, when county officials hope to establish a new base on Cattlemen Road.
County Commission Chair Al Maio signed the documents on Dec. 30.
Commissioners on Nov. 15 approved the deal for the sale of the main building at 1660 Ringling Boulevard and two adjoining properties for $25 million, stipulating the deal be completed by the end of 2021.
The sale to Benderson is part of a process that began in December 2019, when Maio led an effort to prioritize moving out of the Ringling offices.
Maio in November detailed 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.
Under the terms of the deal with Benderson, the county will have to wait 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. 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.
In July, the county issued an invitation to negotiate with parties that were interested in buying the property. Six developers responded, offering between $20 million and $23.5 million for the sale and annual rental rates between $1.6 million and $2.3 million.
At the time of negotiations, Benderson did not indicate what plans the company had for the property. The largest of the three parcels, which fronts Ringling Boulevard, covers about 2.8 acres and is split zoned by the city of Sarasota for downtown core and downtown edge, both of which allow for a variety of dense residential and commercial uses. A second parcel, about 2.3 acres, is zoned for residential use and a small parcel, about a .25 acre, is zoned for downtown edge.
The purchase of the county government property follows a years-long progression of redevelopment projects along the Ringling Boulevard corridor, with additional changes in the planning stages.
- In 2014, Jebco Ventures constructed a 40-unit townhome project called The Q in the 1700 block. The Aloft Sarasota hotel and One Palm condominium opened in the 1400 block in 2016, and the 10-story Sansara condominium opened at Ringling and Pineapple in 2017.
- In 2018, the law firm Williams Parker Harrison Dietz & Getzen sold its 3.3-acre office property to Capstone Group Holdings, a New Hampshire-based investment company. Capstone planned to eventually replace the one- to three-story buildings on the site with a 10-story mixed-use building at the southwest corner of Ringling and Orange Avenue. Capstone has invested significantly in the Ringling Boulevard corridor. The company also purchased the PNC Bank building at 1549 Ringling Blvd. and the Ringling Square building at the southeast corner of Ringling and Orange. In May, the city approved plans for Ringling Square South, the firm’s planned 10-story office and parking development at 243 S. Orange Ave.
In addition to new buildings on Ringling Boulevard, the city has identified additional construction projects it hopes will enliven the corridor: the extension of the Legacy Trail to Fruitville Road and a redesigned streetscape along Ringling. In early 2021, the city offered preliminary approval for the Ringling Trail, an initiative that would add bike lanes and enhanced landscaping to a one-mile stretch from Lime Avenue to Pineapple Avenue.
A preliminary version of that vision accomplished with plastic bollards and restriped pavements expected to roll out early in 2022 to coincide with the opening of the Legacy Trail’s northern extension.
City staff estimated full buildout of the bike lanes would take five to 10 years and cost $10 million, but officials expressed optimism about the transformative power of inviting more cyclist traffic on Ringling.
City leaders next week are expected to rank the buildout of the Ringling streetscape changes near the top of transportation funding priorities with the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization.