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Business Observer Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022 8 months ago

Sarasota tennis club sold — again — for $15.3 million

New developers plan to move forward on mixed-use project.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

SARASOTA — Two global real estate and investment firms have acquired the Bath & Racquet Club in Sarasota for $15.35 million — a price nearly threefold what the 13-acre property sold for in May 2020.

The new owners intend to continue on the path of the former owners: to create a live-work-play, mixed-use project along with maintaining some of the prominent club’s features. Plans include 270 residential units, in addition to commercial and retail space.

The buyers, through Sarasota Springs LLC, are a joint venture between Federal Finance Group and Silver Sky Global Capital, according to a statement. Federal Finance has offices in New York, London and Windermere, outside Orlando. Silver Sky Global Capital has offices in London and New York. Kevin Robbins and Mitch Helmuth of Sarasota’s Harry E. Robbins Associates Inc. brokered the sale, working for developer Mark Lucas, who originally contracted for the property in the first quarter of 2017.

Courtesy. Kevin Robbins

The sale represents a big step in a long saga behind the Bath & Racquet Club, originally built in 1969. The club is at 2170 Robinhood St., behind a Trader Joe’s and just south of Bee Ridge Road and U.S. 41, one of the busiest intersections in town.

Lucas and his development team operated the club from early 2017 through February 2020. During this time Lucas and the team worked through an arduous process for new zoning and entitlements for the site. Lucas and his partners closed on the sale for the club in May 2020 for $5.5 million. They’ve since spent at least $2 million to cover club payroll, improve the facilities, update the fitness area, hire consultants and more — all geared to redevelop the site. “We’re so excited to be able to take responsibility for this historic Sarasota property and move forward with renovations and redevelopment,” Lucas said in a statement when he bought the site.

But Sarasota officials denied the initial rezone petition, in 2020. So Lucas, in conjunction with architect Michael Halflant and Robbins’ team acting as consultants, submitted a new plan in 2021. That new plan met both the concerns of the surrounding community and the city commission — which voted 5-0 to approve it in November.

Bath & Racquet’s new zoning and redevelopment plan accounts for 270 residential units and 45,000 square feet of commercial/retail space, according to the statement. The prior zoning had allowed for just over 100 residential units and nearly 200,000 square feet of office space. “In my 35 years of development throughout multiple states and countries, the Bath & Racquet was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, developments of my career,” Lucas said in the latest statement, issued Jan. 14. “I’m excited to watch the club become a successful development."

Robbins, a Sarasota native, grew up less than a mile from the property.

“This site is strategically located in the heart of Sarasota,” Robbins says in the release. “The Bath & Racquet has been a staple of the community for many years. Our firm was interested in being involved in the project due to the owners’ desire to retain the tennis and fitness center as part of the overall development concept. The developer was committed to retaining the iconic bath and racquet component. Other development companies only wanted to demolish.”

“We are delighted to have acquired this prime property and we look forward to enhancing the community and contributing to the further development of the city of Sarasota,” Silver Sky Global Capital Founder and President Fabio Di Prima says in the statement. “Our teams are already working to complete the design, architectural, engineering and the permitting stages, and we are envisioning to hit the ground within the end of 2022.”

Courtesy. Mitch Helmuth

To initiate the sale, the owners first asked Robbins and Helmuth to locate a joint venture partner. Robbins and Helmuth posted a “Call for Offers” through their international network of commercial brokers, investors, and developers. The pair fielded more than 60 “legitimate interest” inquiries from development firms throughout the entire U.S., the release states, resulting in nearly a dozen unique offers.

“As expected, there was strong interest from local and regional development firms, as well as serious interest and offers from development firms in California, Texas, Montana, New York and other states,” Robbins says. “This process really illustrated the interest in the Sarasota real estate market.”

Founded in 1971, Harry E. Robbins Associates Inc. is Sarasota County's longest established real estate firm under the same family ownership. It has 25 associates.

(This story was updated to reflect the name of the buyers of the site.) 

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