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Business Observer Thursday, Sep. 16, 2021 4 months ago

Best and final offers for county admin building could be in before end of the month

Sarasota County negotiating with potential developers interested in county administration building

Sarasota County officials are negotiating with six developers interested in buying the county administration building and could present best and final offers as early as Sept. 28.

Negotiations started after county commissioners unanimously gave staffers permission to talk to the developers. Each entity submitted an initial bid of more than $20 million for the downtown Sarasota building and two adjacent lots.

But a unanimous vote doesn’t mean all the commissioners like the offers.

Nancy Detert, who represents District 3, says selling at the offered prices is akin to letting them go at a “distress sale.”

“I hate when the government falls into the pit of buying high and selling low,” she says. “Because we know, to replace (it with) what we need, is probably going to cost us $100 million. So, $20 million, in the 20s, is a spit in the bucket.”

Detert recommended the county get an appraisal that would consider the highest and best use for the property, which is now zoned for government use, giving commissioners a better feel for what the property is worth. The idea was rejected without a vote.

The county is considering selling the property after officials learned it would take $32 million to upgrade the current administration building at 1660 Ringling Blvd. and maintain it through 2031. It’s considering moving offices north to 1301 Cattlemen Road, a property it owns, and constructing a four-story, 120,000-square-foot building.

The highest bid, $23.5 million, came from The Seng Co. and Weaver Capital Partners from Georgia. There were two $20 million offers and a $20.1 million offer. The fifth was for $22.5 million from Tricera Capital in Miami and sixth was from Renaissance Centro in Virginia for $22.1 million.

Five bids include a four-year leaseback option.

East Manatee County-based Benderson Development's bid charges no rent but asks the county to relocate its administrative offices to a property near The Mall at University Town Center, which the firm developed. Benderson offered $20 million.

Commissioners are not bound to accept any of the offers and they retain the right to reopen the bid process or cancel the sale altogether.

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