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Airport authority approves land sale to New College

Before the college can purchase the 31 acres for $11.5 million, the sale must be approved by the FAA and funded by the state.

A conceptual rendering shows a reimagined New College East Campus on land the college plans to acquire from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
A conceptual rendering shows a reimagined New College East Campus on land the college plans to acquire from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.
Courtesy image
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With Monday’s unanimous vote of the Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority Board of Directors, both the authority and New College of Florida have entered into an agreement for the college to acquire the nearly 31 acres it rents from the airport for a purchase price of $11.5 million.

The New College Board of Trustees approved the purchase agreement at its Feb. 22 meeting.

Although there's now a willing buyer and seller, the deal isn’t done yet. The airport authority must first secure permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to sell the property, and the college must secure the funds from the state.

“We've received neither yet,” SRQ President and CEO Rick Piccolo told the airport board. “This is just a conceptual approval of the agreement. The pricing was arrived at school appraisals done by both New College and the airport.”

The FAA has authority over the disposition of airport land because it is a portion of what was granted to SMAA’s predecessor and is subject to property restrictions imposed by the federal government. The site was a World War II Army Air Corps base until it was transferred to civilian use in 1947, a result of the Surplus Property Act of 1944. The funding for the purchase must be approved by the Internal Improvement Trust Fund of the State of Florida Board of Trustees.

Despite the need to expand what is now the fastest-growing airport in the country, Piccolo and the SMAA say the site adjacent to the west end of airport property sandwiched between University Parkway and General Spaatz Boulevard is not needed. 

According to SMAA documents, the 2021 Airport Master Plan Update Land Use Map identifies the land as non-aeronautical; and the short-, medium- and long-term projects map, which extend to 2040, show the campus as not needed for future airport use. The Master Plan Update also shows all future parking needs being met by using existing areas, and among the long-term plans is a parking structure on the current short-term lot.  

The land bordered is red is land New College has agreed to purchase from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. The site in pink north of General Spaatz Boulevard will be retained by the airport.

"We've had no problems with parking. Our overflow lots are more than adequate," Piccolo told SMAA Board members. "The (overflow lot) on U.S. 41 continues under construction and should be done sometime early summer to late fall. We have nine major projects going on, and I expect all of them to be done in time for the December/January opening of the terminal."

A recent review of future parking and terminal needs to the year 2050 shows that the current college footprint does not impact future development except for a small portion located on its northern edge of the site, known as the Pei Campus, and a small portion on the Bayfront Campus which impacts the runway protection zone. Control of those parcels will be transferred to the airport, protecting in perpetuity the approach to Runway 4. 

That is in addition to 3.88 acres the airport will reclaim along and including the right of way for General Spaatz Boulevard.

Should New College rent the site for the remainder the lease period through 2056, at today’s rate it would pay the airport just less than $3.5 million, $8 million less than the purchase price. Not bonding that $11.5 million for 30 years at the present rate of 7.73% rate for capital purposes, which comes to $18 million, equals $26 million of net financial benefit to the airport.

“I believe the proposed agreement provides a fair and equitable financial return for the airport and provides restrictive easements that protect the future aeronautical viability of our crosswind runway without impacting the airport’s ability to adjust to future levels of demand,” Piccolo told the Observer. “It ensures that New College will remain an important educational asset in the community and allows the college to do some long-term planning.”



Andrew Warfield

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.

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