Sale of Sarasota County Administration Center property on Ringling Boulevard prompts design change for Pine Place roundabout

Construction timeline still uncertain

This engineering drawing shows the portion of the Benderson Development Co. property, in red, that was the focus of the roundabout redesign. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

As part of their approval of one of their consent agendas of routine business matters this week, the Sarasota City Commission voted unanimously to pay $5,000 more to the Kimley-Horn consulting firm in Sarasota for engineering services regarding the planned roundabout at the intersection of Ringling Boulevard and Pine Place in downtown Sarasota.

The funds will cover “design revisions associated with right-of-way avoidance” of the parcel located within the southwest quadrant of the intersection, the Agenda Request Form said. Sarasota County Government previously owned the parcel. As a result, the form added, right-of-way impacts “were not considered an issue during initial stages of design.”

The sale of the parcel to a private entity made it necessary to eliminate the right-of-way impacts to the property, the form noted. “The redesign was expedited,” the contract amendment adds, because of “a tight project design schedule.”

The new owner of that parcel is Benderson Development Co., which has offices in University Park. The county commissioners authorized that sale in 2021 after acknowledging that it would be more cost-effective to construct a new Administration Center than to pay the anticipated tens of millions of dollars in coming years for renovations and maintenance if the county government offices remained in the structure located at 1660 Ringling Blvd.

In late July, the city’s draft Capital Improvement Plan for 2024 through 2028 listed the Ringling Boulevard-Pine Place roundabout as Project No. 41 out of 92.

During the City Commission’s July 25 budget workshop, during a discussion of that draft, Commissioner Debbie Trice asked whether Benderson’s plans to redevelop the Ringling Boulevard property would affect the roundabout project.

This graphic shows more details of the roundabout design. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Nik Patel, the city engineer, told her that staff had coordinated the planning with county staff and Benderson representatives.

“Based on that coordination,” he added, the company’s vision for the property does not appear to have an impact on the roundabout design. “So we’re moving forward with that project to really finish out the Ringling Trail so that whole piece is connected with the Ringling Trail.”

As the city’s website explains, “The City of Sarasota is reimagining Ringling Boulevard to enable safe access for all users, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation. Ringling Trail provides accessibility to and from the Legacy Trail at Payne Park to Downtown Sarasota while connecting [users] to shops, offices, homes, and parks.”

This is an image of the Ringling Trail in downtown Sarasota. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The Aug. 21 contract amendment brings the total for Kimley-Horn’s services to $287,750, the Agenda Request Form pointed out.

The original contract dates to Jan. 14, 2021, city documents note.

The scope of services detailed in that contract with Kimley-Horn explained that the company was to create “detailed construction drawings and all documentation needed to support the design” and to handle advertisement of the project for bids. Additionally, the company was to perform “necessary survey work,” with the proviso that the roundabout must “fit within existing right of way.”

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has provided a grant to the city of up to $1,977,000 for the undertaking, the News Leader reported in May.

The city would cover the remainder of the expense with revenue it receives through Sarasota County’s Surtax III Program, which entails the levy of an extra penny of sales tax. All of the municipalities in the county — and the Sarasota County School Board — are allocated funds out of that revenue.

No construction timeline yet

At the time the original contract was awarded, Jan Thornburg, general manager of the city’s Communications Department, told The Sarasota News Leader that the city had not scheduled the construction of the roundabout. When the News Leaderasked her for an update this week, she replied in an Aug. 22 email: “There isn’t a firm timeline at this point. Bids were opened at the beginning of this month (Aug. 8) and the low bid was well over budget.”

She added that “the lowest of the two bids received was $3.7 million. The City is now requesting an additional $2 million from FDOT for a total of $4.1 million to cover construction and testing services costs.”

Thornburg provided the News Leader a copy of the letter that was sent to FDOT.

Sarasota City Manager Marlon Brown. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Dated Aug. 16, and directed to John Kubler, interim secretary for District 1, the letter from City Manager Marlon Brown notes the earlier grant from the department. “However,” he continued, “the prevailing economic conditions, marked by rising material prices and escalating contractor rates, necessitate additional funding to cover unforeseen expenses.”

Then Brown pointed out that the advertisement for construction bids took place from May 25 to Aug. 8, and the city received two responses. The lowest, he wrote, was $3,722,466.40, “excluding costs for CEI [construction, engineering and inspection] and validation/verification services.”

The latter term relates to the process of ensuring that the quality of materials for a project meets the required standards, based on News Leader research online.

Therefore, Brown added, the city is seeking an extra $2,093,466.40 to cover the higher expense for those services and construction costs. The project total would be $4,182,466.40, he noted, including $400,000 for the CEI services and $60,000 for the validation/verification testing services.

Brown also emphasized, “The recent completion of Ringling Blvd Compete Streets has enhanced bicycle, transit, and pedestrian activity, contributing to regional mobility and connectivity. The proposed roundabout at Ringling Blvd and Pine Place is vital, given its proximity to key municipal, county, federal buildings, utility providers, local businesses, and residential units. The project aligns with the City’s resiliency, hazard mitigation strategies, and regional improvement plans, including safety, mobility, infrastructure, technology, and multimodal enhancements.”

Moreover, he pointed out, the city’s grant agreement with FDOT for the roundabout will expire in June 2026, “necessitating adherence to the schedule for timely completion.”