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.