Benderson wins effort to secure Beneva parcel

A mailer circulated to homes in the city and county last week urged rejection of the Benderson proposal for the property at Beneva and Fruitville roads.

Over the past several months, big hunks of property along traffic arteries have been quietly optioned for large-scale development. The “supercenter” Goodwill on North Tamiami Trail, a 100+ unit, mixed-use development on 47th Street — just south of the Goodwill store — and the “downtown Walmart” on Charles Ringling Boulevard all come to mind.

Another is the 11-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Fruitville and Beneva roads. On Monday evening, Aug. 20, the City Commission rebuffed a $3 million offer for the property from a Miami developer and accepted a $1.4 million offer from a local firm –  Benderson Development.

The city-owned property was never offered for sale publicly, never listed with Realtors and never the subject of a request for proposals. For the past two years, city staff and Benderson representatives have discussed the price and condition of the property.

When the negotiations surfaced at a March City Commission meeting, Commodore Realty of Miami became interested in the property, eventually bidding $3 million.

The parcel is somewhat problematic. The bomb squad practices there. Firefighters learn how to battle towering infernos there. Plus there’s a nice bike path, a small city park and even a helipad used by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. And the entire property is bisected diagonally by a deep, wide drainage ditch.

The property is zoned “government,” meaning a rezoning effort and a comprehensive plan change to the future land-use map will be necessary before Benderson starts work.

Benderson Vice President Larry Feinberg said his firm wants to create “high-end” retail” on the site. Commissioner Shannon Snyder put it more bluntly: “This is the battle over who gets Publix.”

The Sarasota Commons shopping center, just west of the parcel on Beneva Road, has a Publix store.

The motion to sell to Benderson for $1.4 million passed 3-2, with Commissioner Willie Shaw and Snyder in the minority.