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Proscenium land closing elusive

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  • | 9:02 p.m. March 26, 2009
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The land deal for the Proscenium project, a proposed $800 million redevelopment of six acres just north of downtown Sarasota, could be on life support.

The official spokesperson for the project, Sarasota entrepreneur and developer Zeb Portanova, didn't return phone calls or e-mails regarding the status of the deal. But when interviewed in late January, Portanova said he was confident the $74 million deal for the land, in the 400 block of North Tamiami Trail, would close by mid-February, and if not then, by mid-March. Self-imposed closing deadlines of August, October and December also came and went last year.

With both those dates history and the economic climate for development deals icy, the question lingers as to if and when the deal for the land will actually close.

At stake is one of the most ambitious development projects in the history of downtown Sarasota. The plans include a 225-room Waldorf-Astoria hotel, an 800-seat theater, 200 luxury condos and more than 350,000 square feet of retail and office space.

The complicated purchase, however, involves two tricky entities: One is a diverse consortium of 18 landowners, including corporations and attorneys, while the other is a not yet publicly disclosed Atlanta-based private equity firm.
Portanova has previously said that firm is putting up a large portion of the money for the purchase and future construction.

The private equity side of the deal, of course, could be a victim of the recession. Meanwhile, Coffee Talk hears that some of the parties on the landowner's side, while still optimistic a deal will close at $74 million, are getting restless.

A sale agreement on the property was initially reached in late 2007.


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