Ground formally broken for construction of new Sarasota County Administration Center next to Celery Fields

Structure could cost up to $77.5 million, staff said in February

This is a rendering of the new County Administration Center, which will stand at 1 Apex Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County

During a morning ceremony on Sept. 28, the Sarasota County commissioners — joined by county staff members — broke ground on the new County Administration Center, which will have views to the internationally known bird-watching area, the Celery Fields, in the eastern part of the county.

The building will be located on Fruitville Road, but the new, formal address is 1 Apex Road, county staff has noted.

The facility is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

In November 2021, the commissioners seated at that time approved the sale of the Administration Center in downtown Sarasota to Benderson Development Co. of University Park. The price was $25 million. Along with the six-story facility on Ringling, the county sold Benderson two adjacent parking lots.

The county is paying the company $1 million a year to lease the property until the new complex has been completed.

The sale closed just before the end of 2021.

The new, 121,000 Administration Center was designed for fewer staff members, as several county construction projects are planned to accommodate various departments. For example, a “One Stop Center” for the Planning and Development Services Department will be built on the Northwest “Quad,” one of four parcels that the county had to purchase decades ago, along with other acreage it needed to create the Celery Fields regional stormwater project. The landowner, county staff has explained, made the Quads part of the deal, though they were not needed for the stormwater initiative.

For another example, a new Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources administration complex is planned at the county’s Twin Lakes Park on Clark Road.

Among the departments that will move into the new Administration Center are the Offices of the County Administrator and County Attorney, Communications, Human Resources, Libraries and Historical Resources, and the Office of Financial Management.

During their board retreat in December 2019, the commissioners agreed that they needed to move county offices out of the downtown Sarasota building, which stands at 1660 Ringling Blvd. Staff already had projected significant future expenses to keep the structure in good enough condition to continue to function. Later, Deputy County Administrator and Chief Financial Management Officer Steve Botelho presented to them estimates for necessary renovations and maintenance that added up to as much as $49 million over 20 years.

This is a still from a county video, showing the commissioners and county staff members during the groundbreaking. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The design work for the new complex began in the summer of 2022 and wrapped up this fall, a county project sheet notes. Fawley Bryant Architects of Sarasota handled that part of the undertaking at an expense of $3,904,000. The contractor is Ajax/Tandem Construction of Sarasota.

In early February, the commissioners approved the sale of $28 million in bonds to help pay for the facility, whose total cost has been estimated at $77.5 million.

During remarks prior to the ceremonial groundbreaking on Sept. 28, Commission Chair Ron Cutsinger told those gathered, “I think this will be probably, in the history of Sarasota County, the fastest project of this size and scope to go from design to completion.”

Referring to plans that Benderson Development has to redevelop the downtown Administration Center property, Cutsinger added, “That’s going to create an economic engine.”

Benderson hired the firm of Torti Gallas + Partners to conduct a three-day charrette this week, in an effort to work with city of Sarasota residents on a site plan for the Ringling Boulevard and Morrill Street parcels.

Laurel Park residents, who live close to the site, especially have been concerned about the potential effects that the redevelopment of the property could have on their neighborhood.

As the property is within the city limits, Benderson representatives will working be with city staff on proposals.