- May 24, 2023
A Greenwich, Conn.-based real estate investment trust formed to take advantage of a federal law aimed at spurring economic development in disadvantaged areas intends to build some 400 apartments and new retail space at Sarasota’s Main Plaza.
The affiliate of Belpointe REIT Inc. bought a majority of the office and retail complex on 8.6 acres downtown for $20 million, from a pair of local investment groups, BBC Plaza LLC and Biter Buildings LLC.
“The buyer came to realize that residential was one key component missing from the property and from that immediate area,” says Kevin Robbins, a sales associate at Sarasota-based real estate brokerage firm Harry E. Robbins Associates Inc., which represented BBC Plaza and Biter Buildings in the transaction and has been retained by Belpointe to oversee future leasing.
“Their apartment development will add about 1,000 people to the immediate vicinity and generate a market for the additional retail space that’s being contemplated,” Robbins says.
Belpointe is expected to raze a two-story building at 1991 Main St. that currently houses office space — much of it vacant — and shuttered restaurants that had once been occupied by Applebee’s and Ker’s Wing House, among others.
In its place on roughly five acres, Belpointe is slated to develop a food hall concept similar to the one at Armature Works, in Tampa’s The Heights development, and elsewhere.
“A food hall would be a great fit for that side of Main Street and be a tremendous complement to the existing movie theater and the offices that are in the surrounding area,” Robbins says.
Belpointe also is contemplating adding a small grocery store on the property and other specialty and service-oriented retail. The only dedicated existing grocer downtown is Whole Foods Market, which opened as part of a mixed-use project by Casto Southeast Realty Services more than a decade ago.
“Main Plaza has great accessibility off more than one primary street, and so from that perspective it would be a tremendous addition,” Robbins says.
Under current Downtown Core zoning, Belpointe’s development could rise 10 floors at Main Plaza. Prior to the construction of a Staples office supply store and a Bank of America branch on adjacent property a decade ago, developer Wayne M. Ruben of WMR Consulting LLC considered a pair of 10-story condominium buildings on the property.
Belpointe officials did not return telephone calls for comment on their proposed development.
Sellers BBC Plaza and Biter Buildings — partnerships comprising local investors Eric Baird, Jesse Biter and David Chessler — will retain ownership of Main Plaza buildings housing a Regal Cinemas movieplex, a pizza restaurant and a bank branch.
“In the end we decided it would be best to redevelop the entire mall, which we felt was more suited for a company like Belpointe,” Baird says in a statement.
BBC Plaza and Biter acquired Main Plaza in November 2015 for $18.1 million. In 2005, the Connecticut company that sold it to the local entities spent $40 million for the property.
Regal two years ago signed a 15-year lease extension for its space that was followed by a major renovation and downsizing of the then-20-screen theater. Today, Regal’s Hollywood 11 operates 11 screens at Main Plaza.
In addition to the roughly 259,000-square-foot office and retail complex, Belpointe also acquired an 800-space parking garage that bifurcates Main Plaza.
Belpointe, which sold shares to the public in March, according to U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission documents, was formed to take advantage of federally qualified Opportunity Zones that were allowed under the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
Opportunity Zones allow investors tax benefits and to defer capital gains on properties or businesses if they retail ownership for a 10-year period, according to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service statements the 2017 law.
Florida has some 425 Opportunity Zones, but developers and investors must purchase properties and make commitments before the end of this year to maximize the tax benefits from the zones.
“We think they sky’s the limit for that side of downtown, and that what will happen at Main Plaza will be a big complement to what’s already there,” Robbins says.