Over the past couple of years officials from both Sarasota County and the city of Bradenton have ventured to sell their main government buildings to developers with plans to transform them.
In Sarasota, the county administration building had fallen into disrepair over the years and it cost too much money to upgrade it. In Bradenton, the city hall building sits on waterfront property that officials believed could be used to boost the prospects of downtown.
While the decisions were made for different reasons, the sales are poised to be economic boosts for their respective areas while providing new municipal offices for government administrators.
The changes will not be immediate as the wheels of government and the realities of development both grind slowly. But if plans work out in the long term as officials and developers hope, the two projects will show that while sometimes at odds, governments and the private sector can work together.
As long as their interest align, of course.
Bradenton City Hall
For more than a year now the city has been discussing selling City Hall, at 101 12th St. W. in downtown Bradenton and moving its offices, as well a police headquarters, to new locations.
A big reason for this is City Hall sits on a prime 3.9-acre lot on the Manatee River, near the marina, pier and the downtown Riverwalk. Many see it as a piece of land ripe for redevelopment and bringing with it more life to downtown.
West Palm Beach L&L Development was the top choice of Bradenton City Council members after it and two other developers presented their proposals at an April 12 meeting.
The developer’s plan include retail space on the first floor, a rooftop venue, apartments, condominiums and a hotel. L&L, in an April 5 letter to the city, said the project includes 350 apartments and 95 condos, as well as 30,000 square feet of retail and a 130-room Marriott AC hotel.
It offered $14.1 million for the building, which also serves as the city’s police headquarters.
At the April meeting, council members authorized city officials to begin negotiating the terms of the deal and coming up with a master development agreement.
City Manager Rob Perry says in an email that Bradenton’s development team and attorneys are making “significant progress” with L&L on those fronts, which includes coming up with the agreement “that will govern the parties' rights, responsibilities and timelines related to the project.”
Perry says he hopes to have the guidelines and transactional agreements within the next 90 days.
“This would provide us a conceptual site plan and architectural standard,” he says in the email. “Thereafter, the city would have 28 months to vacate our current city hall and police department while L&L Development would be designing and permitting the new mixed-use waterfront project.
“A single-phase construction would then begin whereby the developer would be responsible for completing all phases of the project over the following two to three years.”
Sarasota County Administration Center
East Manatee County-based Benderson Development has already begun working on its plans for the redevelopment of the Sarasota County administration building at 1660 Ringling Blvd. and two adjacent parking lots it paid $25 million for in late 2021.
The process is in the early stages says Julie Fanning, marketing director for the prolific developer, but the idea is that “the adaptive reuse project will transform a functionally obsolete building into a beautiful, first-class mixed-use campus.”
“The current fortress-like façade will be replaced with a more modern aesthetic that speaks to the quality of architecture that defines our community,” she writes in an email.
While short on exact details, Benderson does have nearly three more years before it can begin to work on the property.
The county began marketing the 37-year-old administration building, which was a GTE operations center before the county moved in, in early 2021 after a report found it would cost $32 million to upgrade and maintain it through 2031. Six developers bid on the building, with offers topping the $20 million mark and with allowing the county to lease the building back for four years.
Benderson originally offered $20 million but ultimately agreed to pay $25 million and lease the building back to the county for four years at $1 million per year.
In November 2021 Sarasota County commissioners agreed to accept the developer’s offer.
County officials plan to build a new administration building off of Interstate 75, between Fruitville and Laurel roads and next to Celery Fields. The new four-story, 120,000-square-foot building is expected to cost about $75 million.
Fanning says the county’s lease term ends in December 2025 and that Benderson is already “actively” planning the redevelopment.
“Plans,” Fanning says in the email, include “transforming the existing parking lots into a collection of uses which would transition gradually from downtown core zoning along Ringling Boulevard to downtown edge and ultimately to a scale that speaks to the character of the Laurel Park neighborhood along the south boundary.”
Louis Llovio is the commercial real estate editor at the Business Observer. Before going to work at the Observer, the longtime business writer worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Maryland Daily Record and for the Baltimore Sun Media Group. He lives in Tampa.