County Commission takes first step to sell downtown Sarasota Administration Center property to help pay for new facility at 1301 Cattlemen Road

Board members declare Ringling Boulevard site and adjacent Morrill Street parcels to be surplus

This graphic shows the site at 1301 Cattlemen Road, bounded by the dotted yellow lines, that is the focus of planning for a new county administration center. Image courtesy Sarasota County

With a unanimous vote this week, the Sarasota County Commission is moving forward with plans for a new administration center on county-owned land located at 1301 Cattlemen Road.

At the recommendation of Carolyn Eastwood, director of the county’s Capital Projects Department, the board members declared the parcels at 1660 Ringling Blvd. and 1646 and 1703 Morrill St. in downtown Sarasota to be surplus. Those are the county-owned lands on which the downtown Sarasota Administration Center and related facilities sit.

County staff would continue to use the property until the new administration center was constructed, Eastwood noted.

Chair Alan Maio passed the gavel to Vice Chair Christian Ziegler so Maio could make the surplus motion. After all, Maio said laughingly, he was the commissioner who, during the board’s December 2019 retreat, was quoted as being most adamant about construction of a new administration center.

Commissioner Ron Cutsinger seconded the motion. “We’re not sure about [the market value] of [the 1660 Ringling Blvd. and Morrill Street parcels],” Cutsinger said. “I think it’s a good idea to get this out there and find out what numbers we are actually talking about.”

Referencing a slide that Eastwood had shown the board members, Commissioner Michael Moran added, “We’re talking $50 million to the taxpayer over the next decades to keep this building going. It’s just a smart business move,” he noted, of plans to sell the property.

These are the maintenance and renovation estimates for the building at 1660 Ringling Blvd. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The maintenance expense for the Ringling Boulevard structure over the next 10 years has been put at $14.5 million. Adding anticipated renovation costs brings the total to $32.5 million. For 20 years, the slide showed, the total expense could be $49 million.

“I’ll support this [surplus motion] on its surface,” Ziegler said. “This isn’t going to be like a Taj Mahal project,” he pointed out of plans for the new administration center.

“Just as long as we keep the cost down,” Ziegler said, “I’ll be happy to support this.”

This aerial map shows the county Administration Center on Ringling Boulevard (top) and the parking lot for employees and visitors that is located at 1646 Morrill St. (outlined in purple). Image courtesy Property Appraiser Bill Furst

Eastwood explained that she would be back before the commissioners on June 8 with a formal resolution “further defining the surplus property and what would be entailed with that.”

This is the motion Chair Alan Maio made in regard to putting the downtown parcels on a county surplus lands list. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Details of the concepts

During her presentation, Eastwood estimated that a four-story, 120,000-square-foot structure built at 1301 Cattlemen Road would carry a price tag of $72 million. “We do believe we can get there,” she said of the funding, with proceeds from the sale of the downtown Sarasota land, the maximum borrow of funds allowed by the cap in the Sarasota County Charter, and impact fees and cash.

During the board’s March 24 budget workshop, Chair Maio said the Charter cap is about $24.5 million.

Section 5.2D of the Sarasota County Charter says that the county “shall not issue or cause to be issued, without referendum, any notes, bonds, certificates of participation, or other instruments of indebtedness evidencing borrowing,” unless the principal indebtedness or obligation prior to Oct. 1, 2003 was no more than $17 million. “Beginning October 1, 2003 and each October 1 thereafter,” the Charter continues, “the amount of bonding limitation in effect shall be adjusted to reflect the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index … by using the most recent available information for the prior 12-month period.”

“If we have the go-ahead,” Eastwood told the commissioners on May 18, “we could potentially occupy [the new building] in July of 2025.”

At the outset of the presentation, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis reminded the board members about the remarks they heard from Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman on March 24 in regard to the potential use of the 1301 Cattlemen Road site for new Sheriff’s Office facilities. The parcel would accommodate more of the department’s units than the headquarters standing at 6010 Cattleridge Blvd. in Sarasota, Hoffman pointed out during his remarks.

The empty parcels near the Cattleridge Road headquarters are outlined in red. The stormwater pond is visible near the middle of the aerial view. Image courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

At that time, Hoffman said he had learned that stormwater issues could prevent the expansion office of his department’s facilities on the Cattleridge Boulevard site.

However, Lewis explained on May 18, “I’ve talked to the sheriff multiple times [since March 24].” County staff had reviewed the two Cattleridge Boulevard parcels the county owns that had been planned for future expansion of the Sheriff’s Office facilities. “We don’t believe there is a stormwater issue with developing [that land],” Lewis added.

As long as those two parcels would accommodate the Sheriff’s Office’s needs, Lewis said of Hoffman, “He’s happy.”

During her presentation, Eastwood reminded the commissioners of their March 24 discussion about a new administration center. That day, she said, they told staff they would prefer a scenario involving county-owned land and the lowest cost possible.

Eastwood showed them a slide with an aerial view of the county property located at 1301 Cattlemen Road, which is near the Bahia Vista Street intersection. The county’s History Center and Emergency Operations Center border Porter Way on the north. The site of the new administration center would be to the west of those structures.

This is a concept plan for the new administration center at 1301 Cattlemen Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County

“There is a grand tree on the site,” she noted, referencing another slide. It would need to be preserved, according to county regulations.

Then Eastwood showed the board members a concept plan for the initial four-story administration center with the necessary 320 parking spaces outlined around it.

A second concept plan featured the location of another four-story structure — this one with 70,000 square feet — that could be built in the future to accommodate more county offices.

A five-level parking garage with 388 spaces was proposed along with the surface parking in that scenario.

This is a concept plan showing how a second structure could be built on the Cattlemen Road site. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The occupants of the initial, 120,000-square-foot facility would be the commissioners, offices of the Clerk of the Circuit Court and County Comptroller, county administration, Commission Services staff, the Office of the County Attorney, the Office of Financial Management, Library Administration, and the Communications and Human Resources departments.

When Chair Maio asked Eastwood about what he said appeared to be a swale on the east side of the county land at 1301 Cattlemen Road, Eastwood replied, “It’s considered a drainage canal,” which the county owns.

“I would absolutely entertain review of the cost to pipe it,” Maio told her, referring to the use of culverts, so extra space on the site would be available for other uses.

People might think such a project would be very expensive, Maio said. However, he added that he would expect the cost ultimately would “not [be] an eyebrow-raiser.”

A building could not be constructed on that portion of the site, Maio explained, but it could be used for more surface parking.

Eastwood acknowledged that potential.

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