- July 19, 2019
Nearly a year after closing its doors, the former Café Baci restaurant, a landmark property in a high-traffic part of Sarasota, has been acquired for about $3 million.
East Manatee County-based Benderson Development acquired the property, at 4001 S. Tamiami Trail, in a $2.8 million sale that closed March 23. The property had been on the market, but under contract, since last May, when the longtime owners shuttered the restaurant. As soon as the last contract was up — with no closed sale — Benderson reached out to the Sarasota broker with the listing, Eric Massey of Michael Saunders & Co. That was in February.
“We’re going to reimagine the property,” Mark Chait, executive director of leasing for Benderson Development, says.
Benderson is one of the largest retail and restaurant landlords in the country, with over 800 properties across 40 states, and it has been growing its portfolio. It's also worked on multiple redevelopment projects, especially ones Chait says might include new construction. “Our company has a long history of buying properties and significantly redeveloping the properties,” he says.
The restaurant — the place where many in Sarasota held wedding rehearsal dinners, anniversary celebrations and other big-ticket events — had been open in Sarasota, just south of the Bee Ridge Road intersection, for over 30 years. The location is what attracted Benderson in the first place.
“We didn’t buy it with a specific user in place or in mind,” Chait says. “We just think it’s a great piece of real estate in Sarasota. We specifically think Café Baci is extraordinarily well located. We’re excited about what redevelopment might come.”
As evidence of its work in this area, Benderson points to its work on The Landings, a property a few miles south of Café Baci. Since 2012 when it was purchased, Benderson has renovated the center to one that’s anchored by a recently rebuilt Publix. The center also now features multiple retail and dining spots including Florence and the Spice Boys, The Breakfast Co., Origin Craft Beer & Pizza Café, Apollonia Grill, Starbucks, Mantra Fitness, StretchLab, EoS Fitness, Daruma, DogPerfect and Tripletail Seafood & Spirits.
While Benderson officials had few specifics about what the property’s future will look like, the former Italian restaurant’s owners are confident it will be great.
“We just know that whatever Benderson does, they do it beautifully,” says Denise Mei, who, along with her husband, Roberto Mei, owned the restaurant.