Ringling Plaza, which might be anchored by one of the city’s top law firms, will be one of the first dedicated office properties downtown in decades.
Downtown Sarasota’s largest private-sector office landlord has unveiled plans to expand its portfolio with a new 10-story building that will be anchored by the city’s largest and oldest law firm.
Capstone Management, a company controlled by part-time Sarasota resident and former defense contractor Ken Solinsky, plans to begin construction on its planned Ringling Plaza project on a vacant lot later this year, possibly in April.
Law firm Williams Parker Harrison Dietz & Getzen is expected to move from its longtime quarters nearby to the new building’s top two floors upon completion in late 2022 or early 2023.
“There won’t be any holding back with this building,” says Jag Grewal, a partner in the Sarasota commercial real estate brokerage firm Ian Black Real Estate who will be charged with leasing Ringling Plaza.
“It’s going to be a 21st Century building with large floor plates, which people and businesses like because they’re more efficient. Companies actually need less space overall because of that efficiency.”
Ringling Plaza also will stand out as the largest dedicated office project in Sarasota’s downtown in more than two decades. Unlike vertical residential development, the city’s office sector has struggled in recent years from a lack of a white-collar business base and double-digit availability.
Williams Parker is expected to lease 35,000 square feet in the project, leaving about 55,000 square feet available.
Williams Parker officials declined to comment on its move, and Solinsky also declined to be interviewed about the project.
Grewal says marketing efforts are being aimed at companies that would require a full floor of space.
Ringling Plaza’s ground floor, as designed by Hoyt Architects, will contain about 2,500 square feet of office-oriented retail space, such as a bank branch. In addition to five floors of offices, the balance of the space will be devoted to parking.
The building also will share deck parking with a garage adjacent to the five-story Ringling Square office project, which Capstone also owns.
Although it will lack traditional amenities such as a fitness center or restaurant, Grewal says Ringling Plaza will contain a “state-of-the-art” elevator system; a “post-COVID-19” air conditioning and ventilation system; and an amenity floor with conference and meeting space for tenants.
“This building will be designed with modern amenities and systems,” Grewal says. “It won’t have to be retrofitted for the 21st Century.”
But Capstone’s project faces hurdles similar to those new office offerings in downtown Tampa and elsewhere do.
Most importantly, its asking rental rate will likely be around $40 per square foot — higher than the asking rate for Class A office space in downtown Sarasota.
At the same time, the city suffered from a lack of demand amid changing office cultures — even before COVID-19 ushered in the wave of “work-from-home” shifts.
“The office market downtown is still struggling, even as other sectors have done well,” says John Harshman, president of Sarasota-based commercial real estate brokerage firm Harshman & Co. Inc.
“There just aren’t a lot of large users out there that are looking for new office space.”
But Grewal counters that companies relocating to the area from the Northeast and elsewhere will be drawn to Ringling Plaza, and likely won’t blanch at paying higher rental rates that could be in line with their previous quarters.
“I don’t know if it’s a concern,” Grewal says of the projected rental rate. “I think there will be enough demand for well-designed space.”
In addition to Ringling Square and the existing 3.3-acre Williams Parker office site, which the firm has occupied since 1976, Capstone also owns The Players Centre for the Performing Arts property; the PNC Building; and a three-story office building in Sarasota County at 101 Paramount Drive.
Capstone has spent roughly $60 million to acquire its Sarasota holdings to date.
Solinsky was the co-founder and owner of Insight Technology, a military contractor that developed night vision goggles and infrared sighting technology. He sold the business to L3 Communications in 2010.
Solinsky, 70, and his wife moved to Sarasota in late 2013 when they acquired a 7,200-square-foot residence on Siesta Key for $10 million.
The following year he founded OnPoint Systems, which makes the SpotOn Virtual Fence for dogs, according to a Forbes magazine story. SpotOn uses GPS data and satellite information from U.S., European and Russian systems to maintain invisible fences for pets.
(This story was updated to reflect that the revenue for Insight Technology and sale price for when L3 Communications bought the firm, as reported by Forbes, was incorrect according to Ken Solinsky, via Jag Grewal. This story was also updated to reflect the correct asking rental rate for Ringling Plaza and the difference between that asking rental rate and other Class A office space in downtown Sarasota.)