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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Monday, Jan. 26, 2004 14 years ago

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

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This week's items: SBC Development tries third site planHank Goldsby has put an offering circular on the street for what is likely to be Sarasota County's next new bank. The Sarasota Collection moving to Central Ave.

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

Is third time a charm or strike three?

Poor Larry Lieberman. Two years ago, when GCBR visited with Lieberman he was enthusiastic and about optimistic about starting on a 500-acre development in West Manatee County on Sarasota Bay between the El Conquistador development and Tidy Island.

But alas, here it is 2004 and Lieberman, via his Sarasota-based Barrington Group, is still trying to hack through the government thicket. SBC Development, the project's name, is in its third incarnation.

Manatee County officials have objected to the proposed heights of SBC's condominium units - from a maximum of eight stories to as high as 14 stories, including parking levels.

In this third preliminary site plan, Lieberman's group shows a first phase consisting of 272 condominium units in multiple buildings, with a maximum height of five stories over parking and an associated commercial facility.

Manatee planning manager Norm Luppino expects the project to reach the administrative public hearing stage by April, although "nothing is tied down yet," Luppino says.

If the most recently submitted preliminary site plan is approved, then the developer would submit a final site plan and construction drawing. Construction on the project could start as early as July. Calls to Lieberman were not returned by deadline.

Looking for capital

Veteran banker Hank Goldsby has put an offering circular on the street for what is likely to be Sarasota County's next new bank.

Goldsby is slated to be president of still-in-organization First America Bank, which filed for a state charter in October. He has 30 years of banking experience, including stints in Southwest Florida at Liberty National and Regions banks.

The First America Bank organizers are offering at least 750,000 shares of common stock at a subscription price of $10 a piece. The minimum subscription is 1,000 shares for each investor. The offering expires March 15.

The bank organizers are seeking regulatory approval to open two full-service locations, one in Manatee County and another in Sarasota County, by the end of June. The Sarasota location may be turn out to be a grand-slam location. It's slated to go on S. Tamiami Trail next to Willowbend, a new Lee Wetherington Homes community, near Osprey. Last month, the county approved plans for a new Wal-Mart Super Center in Osprey, the start of what many believe is going to be a hot new commercial area in Sarasota.

The proposed bank isn't using securities underwriters to sell the issue to conserve capital. "We want to deal directly with our future stockholders in the hope they will be our first depositors," Goldsby says.

The proposed bank's 14-member board of directors includes: Sarasota hotelier Ronald G. Allen; real estate attorney Paul D. Beitlich, a senior shareholder at Sarasota's Icard, Merrill, Cullis, Timm, Furen & Ginsburg PA; Gulf Coast builder Gary A. Roberts; Robert C. Smith, a former U.S. senator from New Hampshire who recently moved to Sarasota and is making another bid for the U.S. Senate; Bradenton dentist Robert J. Klement; Sarasota obstetrician-gynecologist Vincent G. Stenger; independent insurance agent Edward J. Valek II; and Carol B. Green, an expert on franchising who serves on the board of the Sarasota Opera, would chair First America Bank.

From Soho to Noho to Towles Court to Rosemary District

Pamela Rogers and Marcus Anast, owners of The Sarasota Collection, custom fabric designers with bedding, pillows, throws and draperies, are leaving Sarasota's artsy Towles Court area for a rundown, 3,000-square-foot building on Central Avenue (just south of GCBR and Startup Florida offices) in Sarasota's Rosemary District.

Sarasota commercial broker Ian Black, on behalf of entrepreneur Harvey Vengroff, leased the building with an option to buy.

Anast says the building will be gutted and rebuilt into an "urban chic" look. The store will serve the wholesale trade but also will be open to the public.

"Central Avenue, to me, depicts the pulse of the way the city is heading," says Anast. "We find it exciting that it is changing. We want to be a big part of that. We feel we can contribute to the renaissance of downtown."

Anast and Rogers are old hands at this sort of thing. The married couple has been in business together for 25 years. When they started, they helped transform New York City's Soho District into its urban chic feel. In a Seventh Avenue office, they designed and manufactured high-end women's sweaters for Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Cache.

Then from Soho they went to New York's Noho; nine years ago, they moved to Sarasota, eventually opening the Sarasota Collection in the 300 block of S. Washington Boulevard.

"We looked on Central nine years ago," Anast says. "It really appealed to us. We wanted to actually live over there. We still had two children at home, so we didn't want to pioneer again. But it just kept drawing us and drawing us."

Bove fesses up

Longtime Florida bank stock analyst Richard Bove, now with San Francisco-based Hoefer & Arnett but still living in St. Petersburg, assessed his own stock picking recently. And he confessed. About his regional bank stock analysis for 2003, he said recently:

"Quite frankly, I did an unusually poor job in analyzing the stocks in this group. Having been wrong on these stocks in 2003, I am likely to continue to be in 2004. I strongly believe that the bulk of these issues must be sold. The fundamentals as they relate to the consumer are clearly deteriorating. Home and car sales will not increase this year. If housing prices do not go up and interest rates do go up, then the home equity business will turn negative. Deposits are leaving the banks and they are not coming back unless the banks significantly increase the yields to the consumers. Plus, far too many bank branches are being built around the country. This is not a place to invest money." Fundamentally, he has a point.

Etc.

Sarasota-based People's Community Bank of West Florida has opened its first branch outside of Sarasota County - a storefront office on West Manatee Avenue next to the Peach's Restaurant. People's President Neil McCurry, who grew up in Bradenton and whose family still lives there, expects his local roots will help attract deposits and lending opportunities ¦ Signs of growing up: Bradenton-based 1st National Bank & Trust has prided itself on its hometown, local Manatee roots (still does). Its logo always mentioned the "in Manatee" as a signature reminder. But now that it has acquired Englewood-based Trust Co. of Florida and is readying a full-service branch in Sarasota, watch for the "in Manatee" gradually to disappear.

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