Sarasota County sold its admin building to Manatee's Benderson Development in deal that clarifies maintenance agreement, lease back and early departure .
SARASOTA —Sarasota County commissioners voted unanimously Monday, Nov. 15, to sell the county’s administration building to a local developer for $25 million.
In a fairly straight up discussion and vote, where members of the county commissioners all said their concerns had been satisfied, the sale was approved and is expected to close before the end of the year.
The $25 million sale includes a $2 million deposit, and it allows the county to rent the property back for $1 million per year. The lease is for four years, but the county can break it with a six-month notice, pay rent monthly and there is no rent escalation.
The buyer of the building at 1660 Ringling Blvd. and two adjacent properties is Manatee County-based Benderson Development.
Commissioner Nancy Detert, who represents District 3, had been skeptical in previous meetings where the sale was discussed, asking fellow commissioners sharp questions about the process and leading the charge to make sure it was clear which party was responsible for ever-mounting maintenance costs — particularly to the roof, which has been leaking.
The final agreement addresses that issue specifically, saying the landlord is responsible for work needed on the roof and structure while the county takes on any other costs.
Detert says all her concerns were taken care of and “I am happy to support it.”
Her twice-repeated request for an appraisal to determine the true value of the property, however, was not brought up despite saying in September that “I hate when the government falls into the pit of buying high and selling low” and comparing the initial submitted offers to a “distress sale.”
The county began marketing the 35-year-old building, which was a GTE operations center before the county moved in, earlier this year after a report found it would cost $32 million to upgrade the current administration building and maintain it through 2031. On Aug. 20, the county received six bids from developers interested in purchasing the building and the two properties. Each of the offers topped $20 million and allowed the county to lease the building back for four years.
Benderson’s original $20 million offer included no rent but asked the county to relocate its administrative offices to a property near The Mall at University Town Center. Benderson, one of the largest landlords in the country, was a co-developer and builder of the north Sarasota County mall, which opened in 2014.
The county has focused on moving its administrative offices to county-owned land on Cattlemen Road, in northern Sarasota County which is near other county offices. Officials say the site, at 1301 Cattlemen Road, could work for a four-story, 120,000-square-foot building and parking for more than 300 vehicles while leaving room for future growth.
Todd Mathes, Benderson's director of development, says the company has no set plans for the future of the property and will begin looking at redevelopment options next year. Benderson, he says, saw the acquisition of the county building as an opportunity to invest in downtown, noting urban redevelopment plans on parcels adjacent to the Ringling Boulevard site, according to a story in the Sarasota Observer, sister paper of the Business Observer.
He did acknowledge the county’s desire to move out before the four-year lease expires and says Benderson would be planning accordingly.
“When the county’s ready to make a move, we’ll hopefully be in a similar position.”