Initial period for designation to be one year
Following through with action they agreed to on May 18, the Sarasota County commissioners this week voted unanimously to declare the site of the downtown Sarasota County Administration Center and two ancillary parcels to be surplus property.
The Administration Center is located at 1660 Ringling Blvd. The other parcels are located at 1646 Morrill St. and 1703 Morrill St. The former, which serves as a parking lot for staff and visitors, comprises about 2.34 acres, a county document says; the other parcel contains approximately 10,080 square feet.
The resolution the commissioners adopted on June 8 also authorized county staff “to explore opportunities to dispose of said property …”
That is the first formal step toward the sale of the land, as the commissioners and staff have settled on plans for a new administration center located at 1301 Cattlemen Road, near the county’s Emergency Operations Center.
The surplus lands designation vote came as the board members approved their June 8 Consent Agenda of routine business matters. None of the commissioners commented on the item, which is their standard practice when addressing the Consent Agenda.
A June 8 staff memo, provided in the agenda packet, explained, “The Board is authorized by Section 125 of the Florida Statutes and the Sarasota County Surplus Lands Code to dispose of real property belonging to the County whenever the Board determines that it is to the best interest of the County to do so. Revenue from the sale of the real property could be used toward improvement of another property that would allow the County to better serve the public.”
The downtown Sarasota properties would remain on the surplus lands list for one year from the date of the resolution the board approved on June 8. After that, the commission could authorize the county administrator or his designee to extend the surplus designation for up to four additional years, one year at a time.
Further, the resolution noted that the sale of the property would have to include terms allowing county operations to proceed in downtown Sarasota until the new facilities on Cattlemen Road were ready for occupancy.
During their December 2019 retreat, the commissioners first broached the idea of moving into new facilities. They have voiced concern about the potential $49 million in expenses for maintenance and renovations over the next 20 years if they kept county offices in the building standing at 1660 Ringling Blvd.
Nonetheless, during their May 18 discussion about moving, Carolyn Eastwood, director of the county’s Capital Projects Department, talked of a $72-million price tag for a new structure on the county land located at 1301 Cattlemen Road.
The county’s borrowing cap, based on language in the Sarasota County Charter, is about $24.5 million, Chair Alan Maio pointed out earlier this year. Eastwood suggested that, with proceeds from the sale of the downtown Sarasota property, impact fees and available cash, plus the maximum borrow of funds, the county should be able to pay for the new administration center.
By going ahead with the surplus lands vote, Eastwood added on May 18, “We could potentially occupy [the new building] in July of 2025.”
The county purchased the property at 1660 Ringling Blvd. on Dec. 31, 1993, paying GTE Florida Inc. in Hillsborough County $5,588,000, county Property Appraiser William Furst’s office records show. (On June 30, 2000, GTE Corp. merged with Bell Atlantic Corp. to become Verizon Communications.)
The building at 1660 Ringling Blvd. dates to 1973, the Property Appraiser’s Office records note.
In 2020, the Property Appraiser’s Office staff put the market value of the land and the six-story structure at $38,576,700. The parcel comprises 125,482 square feet, or 2.88 acres. The land is zoned Downtown Core in the City of Sarasota.
Most of the parcel is within a “Preliminary FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] Flood Zone,” according to county records dated June 7.