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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Jan. 9, 2004 14 years ago

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

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This week's items: George Mazzarantani, a partner at Abel Band Russell Collier Pitchford & Gordon forms own practiceDooley & Mack intern helps company land $47 million contractPalm, Cocoanut avenues proposals cut to five

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

On his own

What a way to start the New Year (depends, of course, on which side of the desk you were sitting):

On Monday, Jan. 5, Sarasota lawyer George Mazzarantani, a partner at Abel Band Russell Collier Pitchford & Gordon, walked into David Band's office and gave him the news: Mazzarantani had decided to leave Abel Band and form his own firm, the Law Offices of George H. Mazzarantani, P.A.

By Monday afternoon, Mazzarantani's office was open for business at 777 S. Palm Ave. in Sarasota.

"There was no triggering event," Mazzarantani says. "Nothing negative on either side."

After practicing law for nearly 12 years at Abel Band, Mazzarantani says: "I started thinking about this a few years ago. The light bulb went off last year. I'm 43. If I don't do it now, it would be tougher later."

The business and real estate transaction and land-use lawyer says, as is permitted, he has contacted all of his clients and so far reports that his Publix Super Markets and Prudential Palms Realty file drawers will remain active. Mazzarantani also says he's not sure whether he'll take on partners. For now, he wants to fly solo.

Intern proves worth

One attentive summer intern helped Sarasota-based Dooley & Mack Constructors Inc. land its largest single-party construction management contract.

The University of Florida student was walking by an architect's office when she noticed a rendering for a mixed-use project adjacent to the college. She gathered some information from the architect and called Dooley & Mack President Mike Bruner. Five months later, Dooley & Mack was awarded a $47 million contract for University Corners.

The Gainesville multiuse project will include retail, restaurants, offices, upscale apartments, a cinema, entertainment center and a parking garage. The high-profile project is located at the intersection of University Avenue and 13th Street, two of the town's main thoroughfares.

"This is a premier spot with lot of prestige," says Bill Dooley, chairman of the board. "Probably the product is the most interesting thing. It involves demolishing a church, some retail and a parking garage and building two levels of parking underground, a church on the south end of the property ... a level of mezzanine retail and three stories of condominiums above that."

After passing the qualifications-based selection, Dooley & Mack still needs to finalize the contract with the developer, Synergy Design Build LLC of Gainesville.

While Dooley & Mack has done larger projects, those have either come through expansion of an existing contract, phased projects or in a partnership. Previously, Dooley & Mack's largest single-party contract was the $22 million Charlotte County Judicial Center.

As for the intern, Dooley says rumors have it she has been scooped up by a competitor in Miami. "We certainly would have welcomed her back," Dooley says.

Five still in the running

Sarasota has reduced the number of development proposals for the Palm and Cocoanut avenues site in Sarasota from eight to five.

The short list includes Plaza Verdi (Ersa Grae Corp., Kraft Construction Co. Inc. and The ADP Group Inc.); The Palm (Southcoast Partners Inc. and LB Jax Development LLC); Palm Avenue Galleria (Lindell Investments Inc. and Patrinely Group LLC); Arcadia Land Co.'s unnamed redevelopment plan; and La Scala (Benderson Development Co. and Sarasota Commercial Management Inc.).

The five finalists will be interviewed by city officials, with more being eliminated Jan. 30.

Here's how city officials scored and ranked the top five (low score is tops):

1. Ersa Grae Corp.11

2. Southcoast Partners13

3. Lindell Investments15

4. Arcadia Land21

5. Benderson22

How about a Four Seasons?

John Cox, chief executive officer of Sarasota-based Halfacre Construction Co., has the hotel site, all he needs is the hotel.

Cox, his son Jack, along with E. Russell and Christine James have formed Capstan LLC to develop a mixed-use project where the Farm & Garden Supply Store, the former Salvation Army homeless shelter and Blue Line Inc. store are located in downtown Sarasota.

The proposal calls for the property, which runs along Fruitville Road, Lemon Avenue, Central Avenue and Fourth Street, to be replaced by a 100-room hotel, 78,000 square feet of office space, 24,000 square feet of retail space and a 419-space parking garage.

The group has letters of intent with two of the sellers and an agreement for the third. Its main focus now is finding the hotel for the project. "One theory says the downtown needs a businessman's hotel," Cox says. "But we may decide to make it more upscale."

Cox says he is open to bring on an established hotelier to the partnership to develop the hotel.

The big push for moving forward with the development now, Cox says, was the city's plan to implement its master plan. "We are moving as quick as possible," Cox says. "With the master plan (in place) it could take two years to get a project like this approved."

Even so, city approvals are expected to delay the project by up to a year or more. The project will be designed by Sarasota's The ADP Group and built by Halfacre Construction.

Bring home some bacon

House Speaker Johnnie Byrd has appointed Rep. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, to the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors. Detert serves as chair of the House Commerce Committee and recently earned an "A" from the Florida Chamber of Commerce for her stance on key business issues.

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