With no comment from the public or discussion at the dais, the Sarasota County Commission on Jan. 31 unanimously approved $28 million in capital improvement revenue bonds to finance construction of a new county administration center.
Located just east of Interstate 75 in the Fruitville Farms development, the county is planning a four-story, 120,000-square-foot administrative building near Celery Fields and the Fruitville Library.
With site preparation underway, the county plans to move from its Ringling Boulevard headquarters into the new building in late 2025, just in time for its downtown lease with Benderson Development Co. to expire.
The county sold its 170,000-square-foot administration center at 1660 Ringling Blvd. to Benderson in December 2021, plus two adjoining properties used for parking, for $25 million. In April 2022 it also executed a land swap with Benderson, trading county-owned land at Nathan Benderson Park for the new site, which is on Apex Road.
The entire project is expected to cost between $72 million and $74 million.
A preliminary floor plan for the ground floor of the new crescent-shaped building shows a 3,500-square-foot meeting chamber, a 2,400-square-foot “think tank,” conference rooms, functional service areas and a 4,000-square-foot gym.
On Tuesday, commissioners also approved amending the FY 2023 budget to include a general revenue appropriation of $75.1 million.
The bonds are expected to be issued with an amortization period of 20 to 30 years. The bonds are secured by the county’s half-cent sales tax revenues and the repayment of bonds is budgeted from general revenues. The annual debt service is structured to be lower in the first five years to not affect current overall debt coverage ratios for the sales tax revenues, but will average between $2 million and $2.2 million a year.
The new building is 50,000 square feet smaller than the county’s current facility because some county departments, such as Recreation and Natural Resources, will have their own facilities.
Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.