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.
WMR Consulting LLC, a company led by former Benderson Development Co. executive Wayne Ruben, signed a contract to acquire the property for an as-yet unknown price the last week of June.
“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,” says Ruben. “It’s a beautiful building on 3.7 acres, in the heart of downtown Sarasota, with the opportunity to redevelop the site as some sort of mixed-use project.”
Ruben adds he’s in the “early stages” of determining how to redevelop the property.
“We’re exploring all our options, but mostly we hope and expect that it’ll be something that we, and the city, can be proud of when it’s finished.”
Under current zoning, Rube could develop roughly 180 residential units on the site, in a 10-story building.
Over the past decade, WMR has developed retail space for Dimmitt Automotive, Bricks BBQ, Staples and Bank of America in downtown Sarasota.
Steve Horn, a partner in the Sarasota commercial real estate brokerage firm Ian Black Real Estate who is representing Stephens in the transaction, says a contract of sale was completed during the final week of June.
“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. About 55,000 square feet within the building is considered usable.
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 between Stephens and WMR, 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.