- July 14, 2021
A New Hampshire-based investment firm’s plan to redevelop a downtown Sarasota site that has been the long-time headquarters of one of the city’s most prestigious law firms joins a growing list of anticipated projects.
Capstone Group’s plans to revamp law firm Williams Parker Harrison Dietz & Getzen’s property at 200 S. Orange Ave. also depicts faith that Sarasota’s growth and demand for downtown living will continue, analysts say.
Capstone’s mixed-use project on the 3.3-acre Orange Avenue site isn’t likely to be completed until 2022 or beyond, based on a series of existing commercial leases that will be honored with Clifford M. Scholz Architects Inc., restaurant Nancy’s Bar-B-Que and Hancock Bank.
“It’s always encouraging when a company as significant as Capstone makes an investment of this magnitude in downtown Sarasota,” says John Harshman, president of Sarasota-based commercial real estate brokerage firm Harshman & Co. Inc.
“It shows that Sarasota, as a place that’s desirable and where people want to live, will continue,” he adds.
Capstone’s anticipated 10-story development is expected to contain a mix of residences and office space, perhaps with ground-floor retail and parking.
Williams Parker is expected to remain in its current pair of buildings on the property — the older of which dates to 1976 — while construction occurs.
Bill Seider, a Williams Parker shareholder, says the sale to Capstone and its proposed development gave the firm “a chance to have a state-of-the-art new office while maintaining our geographic identity on our campus.”
Many of the details surrounding Capstone’s plan have yet to fixed, however. Company officials could not be reached for comment.
Seider says the firm might require more than the 43,000 square feet of office space it now occupies, as growth that has added 14 new attorneys and additional staff since 2015.
He declined to comment on whether the firm plans to lease its new offices from Capstone or buy the space.
Other costs also have yet to be outlined. Capstone would likely spend roughly $250 per square foot to develop the building’s office space and about $500 per square foot on the residential space.
Under current zoning, about 160 residences could be built on the site.
Capstone is believed to have paid individual Williams Parker shareholders roughly $15 million for the Orange Avenue property, though the exact figure is unknown because the company bought the site through a land trust early last month, records show. Seider declined to reveal the purchase price.
“We’re looking at and exploring various options,” Seider says. “One of which is that perhaps our new offices would be in a building separate from the residences, but we don’t know as yet. There are a lot of moving parts to this.”
Moving isn’t something that Williams Parker had been known for, however. The firm, which traces its start to 1925, was for decades located in the Palmer Bank Building in downtown Sarasota, which today is the site of the Plaza at Five Points condominium, retail and office tower.
The firm has been at 200 S. Orange Ave. since 1976, and it added a second building there in 1990 to accommodate growth.
“The configuration of law offices has changed dramatically since the 1970s,” Seider says. Back then, every attorney had their own office, and an assistant who often had their own office. Today, attorneys work much more collaboratively.”
Technology has played a role, as well. Four decades ago, law offices had to devote considerable space to libraries of thick law books. Today, law books are typically stored digitally online.
For Capstone, the Williams Parker purchase marks its largest deal to date in Sarasota, and its first involving ground-up development.
In all, the company led by investor Ken Solinsky has spent in excess of $50 million to acquire a trio of Sarasota office buildings, including the PNC Building and Ringling Square building across a pair of streets from the Williams Parker campus. It also owns a former Arthur Andersen office building near Interstate 75.
Solinsky, an engineer who founded Insight Technology Inc. in 1988 to supply night vision goggles and infrared sighting technology to the U.S. military, was named Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2009 for manufacturing and distribution.
He sold the business to L3 Communications the following year. AT the time, Insight Technology had grown to $300 million in annual sales and to more than 1,000 employees.
In late 2013, Solinsky and his wife, Grace, spent $10 million to acquire Snook Inn, a six-bedroom residence measuring 6,000 square feet on Siesta Key.
Solinsky could not be reached for comment on Capstone’s plans for the Williams Parker site.
But Harshman maintains Capstone’s involvement with the project will be positive.
“They’ll provide a fresh look at the location and, to an extent, a marketplace in which new dynamics are at work,” he says. “Notably, baby boomers are retiring with their money and their parents’ money.”
He also says he isn’t surprised that Williams Parker decided on a build-to-suit option for its new quarters, as existing product of that size is lacking in downtown Sarasota.
“If a user needs 40,000 or 50,000 square feet or above in Sarasota, they’re going to have to hire someone to build it for them.”