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Business Observer Wednesday, Jun. 27, 2018 2 years ago

Former newspaper building under contract

1741 Main St. site in Sarasota may be redeveloped to include apartments
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

One of Sarasota’s most iconic office buildings is expected to trade hands around the end of the year.

Stephens Capital, a Little Rock, Ark.-based investment firm, has committed to sell its three-story building at 1741 Main St., which had been until two years ago the headquarters of the Herald-Tribune Media Group, publisher of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Developer WMR Consulting LLC, a company led by former Benderson Development Co. executive Wayne Ruben, has contracted to acquire the property. Over the past decade, WMR has developed retail space for Dimmitt Automotive, Brick's Bar-B-Que, Staples and Bank of America in downtown Sarasota.

At the 1741 Main St. site, Ruben may be contemplating building new rental apartments on the three-acre property.

"It's an incredible opportunity, a building with wide-open floor plates and it's a tremendous canvas unlike any I've had in my entire development career," Ruben says. "It's a beautiful building on 3.7 acres, in the heart of downtown Sarasota, with the opportunity to some sort of mixed-use project."

Ruben adds he is in the "early stages" of determining what could happen on the site.

"We're exploring all of our options, but mostly we hope and expect that it will be something we, and the city, can be proud of when it's finished," Ruben says.

Steve Horn, a partner in the Sarasota commercial real estate brokerage firm Ian Black Real Estate who is representing Stephens in the transaction, says the redevelopment could be significant for Main Street downtown.

“It would be an exciting mixed-use project that would be very impactful for downtown Sarasota,” says Horn.

Horn declined to reveal the purchase price or identify Ruben, who has been conducting due diligence inside the 1741 Main St. building for the past few weeks.

The 72,000-square-foot building, which is presently vacant, most recently has been on the market for about $14 million.

Stephens Capital, which had owned the media company together with Halifax Media from 2011 until 2015 before selling it to New York-based Gatehouse Media for $280 million, retained the real estate in the wake of the company’s sale.

Then-Herald-Tribune owner The New York Times Co. spent roughly $30 million to develop the 1741 Main St. building, which opened in 2005.

If closing occurs, it would represent one of the largest office investments in downtown Sarasota in the past year, together with the purchase of law firm Williams Parker’s 200 S. Orange Ave. headquarters — a transaction believed to be in the $25 million range.

The Herald-Tribune Media Group relocated its operations from the 1741 Main St. building next door to the 10-story SunTrust Building, at 1777 Main St., in late 2016.

The Herald-Tribune today occupies roughly 28,000 square feet on three floors in the SunTrust building.


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