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Business Observer Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021 2 weeks ago

After months of work, commissioners OK sale of building in just minutes

Sarasota County Commissioners approve the $25 million sale of admin building and adjoining properties in quick vote
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

It took just minutes for Sarasota County’s top elected officials to sell off the administration building that housed the heart of its government for about 35 years.

After declarations of support, a presentation from the planning department — which was almost passed over — and a vote, east Manatee County-based developer Benderson Development won the right to pay $25 million for the building and two adjacent properties.

For those who criticize politicians for moving too slow and for indecisiveness, the Nov. 15 vote at the county commission meeting was a head-spinning piece of governing.  

But truth is, despite the 10-minute discussion and quick vote, the sale had been in the works since a retreat in December 2019. Just ask Commission Chairman Alan Maio, who reminded everyone listening and watching that he got the ball rolling. “Apparently I was more demonstrative than I recall. But if I’m to believe everything staff tells me and what’s in the newspaper, apparently, I slapped the table a couple of times and said, Get. Us. Out. Of. This. Building.”

The county began marketing the 35-year-old building, 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 on the building and the two adjacent properties. Each topped $20 million and allowed the county to lease the building back for four years as it builds new administrative offices on county-owned land in northern Sarasota County.

Over the next couple of months, commissioners directed county staff on how they’d like to see the deal structured. The final deal, scheduled to close before the end of the year, looks like this: the properties sold for $25 million, including a $2 million deposit, and the county will rent the property back for $1 million per year for four years. The county can break the lease with a six-month notice, pay rent monthly and won’t face rent escalations.

“Probably the smartest words I ever said in seven years,” Maio says of his 2019 table-slapping pronouncement. “It’s time to be out of this building.”

Adding a few moments later, “The fact that we went from an idea said at a commission retreat to a closing in two years is a credit to our staff…this was an incredibly, incredibly quick job.”

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