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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Jul. 30, 2004 15 years ago

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

This week's items: An investment group has a contract to buy the Farm and Garden Supply store.The Venetian Golf & River Club is on the cutting edge as a "green" or environmentally friendly community.Banker of the Year

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

Back up wanted

Don't be fooled by the 'For Sale Sign' at the Farm and Garden Supply store. An investment group has a contract to buy the property.

"We are really just looking for a back up," says Wayne Hibbs Jr., owner of the store at 1492 Fourth St.

Reid Murphy, of Sarasota-based Developers Realty, who represents Hibbs and the undisclosed investment group, says the investment group plans to build a development with retail shops on the first floor and townhomes or lofts above.

The project's size hasn't been determined, Murphy says, adding, "We had looked at the Salvation Army (homeless shelter) and the Blue Line building, but (John Cox) had those pieces tied up."

In January, Cox, the chief executive officer of Sarasota-based Halfacre Construction Co., announced plans to develop a mixed-used development on the Hibbs, Blue Line and Salvation Army land. The development was envisioned as a 100-room hotel, 78,000 square feet of office space, 24,000 square feet of retail space and a 419-space parking garage.

That followed Tampa-based hotel and commercial real estate developer United American Realty's attempt to acquire land to develop a $75-million Embassy Suites on the Fruitville Road frontage sites. United American Realty abandoned the project after running into approval problems with the Salvation Army site.

In mid-August, Hibbs is moving the Farm and Garden store to 735 S. Beneva.

"It's the old Green Fountain building," Hibbs says. "We are renovating it right now. We just put a new roof on it. It is going to give us a lot more room: 3.25 acres compared to an acre here. We are going to be able to offer a lot more products."

You'll have to say goodbye to the old Farm and Garden soon. The investment group is slated to close on the store in late September.

Green all the way

WCI Communities Inc.'s Venetian Golf & River Club, off Laurel Road in north Venice, is on the cutting edge as a "green" or environmentally friendly community.

Bonita Springs-based WCI partnered with Florida Power & Light Co. to install a hydrogen fuel cell at the Venetian to recharge golf carts. It is the first time a Florida builder-developer has partnered with FP&L on fuel cell research. In the past the utility has only partnered with government agencies and universities on the research.

FPL will monitor the performance activity and availability of the fuel cell over the next year for scientific research and educational purposes. Hydrogen fuel cells offer the potential to make electricity without combustion, and produce as a byproduct mainly water and heat.

At the same time, the Venetian is one of the first of five green developments in the state to be certified green by the Florida Green Building Coalition Inc., and it's the first community to commit to having all of its homes certified as green. So far, 44 of the 1,000 single-family homes planned in the Venetian community have been certified.

Over the past four years, the Florida Green Building Coalition Inc. has established state-based sustainable/environmental construction standards for different types of development.

"Sarasota County has talked about using our standards for its new building standards," says Roy Bonnell, Executive Director for the Florida Green Building Coalition.

In that respect, WCI expects the Venetian development to be a guide for the rest of the county and the Gulf Coast of Florida, including creating two models homes based on the coalition's standards. The newest model home, Casa Verde, is touted as the greenest home in Florida with 325 points from the coalition's green home standards.

Bonnell says the coalition plans to hold its state membership meeting in Sarasota next year and is working with an undisclosed hotel to certify it as a green lodging prior to the meeting.

Banker of the Year

Don't forget to submit nominations to GCBR for the 2004 Banker of the Year. Send names of nominees, along with the reason for the nomination, to Associate Editor Fran Gilpin at [email protected] or fax to (941) 362-4808 or (813) 221-9403. The deadline is Aug. 9.

Sarasota CVB budget


Spending for the Sarasota County Convention & Visitor's Bureau is projected to increase 13% if approved by the county commission.

2003-042004-05% Chg.


Media, fee & production$889,684$686,000-23

Public relations0139,000 -


Market research20,50045,000+119

Visitor guide11,00011,0000

Promotion & sales230,000325,068+41

Sales, meeting, promotional149,000 265,068+78

In-house public relations35,0005,000-85


Special projects37,00020,000-46

Professional services & sports193,000300,000+55




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