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Bradenton’s 400-unit ParkCrest Landings topped apartment complex sales.

Especially in Southwest Florida, real estate confers wealth and power. What properties are trading hands, who’s selling and buying (lots of out-of-town investors this year) and what they’re paying are big news and an important barometer of our market’s growth and health. We dug through the archives and interviewed dozens of real estate experts to find the year’s biggest sales, game-changing construction projects, major players, superstar agents and top trends to tell the tale of real estate in the 941.

RESIDENTIAL

The Year of the Apartment Complex 

ParkCrest Landings

Bradenton, $75 million

In August, Passco Companies, a California-based real estate investment company, bought ParkCrest Landings, a 400-unit multifamily complex off State Road 64 in Bradenton, for $75 million. It capped off a busy year for apartment complex sales. In January, New York-based real estate investment company Bluerock Residential Growth REIT Inc. partnered with the Carroll Organization to purchase the 320-unit Citation Club Apartments in Palmer Ranch for $39.25 million. The complex was rebranded and renamed ARIUM on Palmer Ranch. Just a month before that, a California investment firm bought the 340-unit Vista at Palma Sola in Bradenton for $43 million. December also saw the sale of the Yacht Club at Heritage Harbour. Massachusetts outfit Northland Investment Corp. bought the 392-unit Bradenton complex for $70.5 million.

RETAIL

Publix Goes Shopping

Bayshore Gardens Shopping Center

Bradenton, $42 million

In July, Publix continued its Southwest Florida spending spree with a $42 million purchase of 19.5 acres from Bay Gard Ltd. The deal gave Publix four parcels in the 6100 block of 14th Street West in Bradenton, comprising the Bayshore Gardens shopping center. Those parcels house Target, TJ Maxx and H&R Block, among several other tenants. The 59-year-old shopping center was redeveloped in the early 1990s when a movie theater on the property was torn down. Publix added the Bayshore Gardens Shopping Center to the $86 million of land deals it made in 2014 and 2015 in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

OFFICE BUILDING

Banking on Downtown Sarasota

BMO Harris Plaza

Sarasota, $23 million

In July, Ian Black Real Estate facilitated the sale of the BMO Harris plaza, the 11-story, 128,000-square-foot office tower located at 240 S. Pineapple Ave. in downtown Sarasota. New York-based investment group Belle Amie Anthem Realty LLC purchased the property for $23 million. Ian Black Real Estate handled the listing on the buyer and seller side, with agent Michele Fuller, a partner with the firm, introducing the property to the buyer. Jag Grewal and Jorge Portela represented the seller. Fuller says the sale “signifies the strength of our market,” showing “that outside investors were willing to come here.” At the time of sale, the building boasted a 95 percent occupancy rate, with tenants including Brown & Brown Insurance, Allegiant Partners and Insula Properties.

LAND ONLY

It Takes a Village

Placida Land

$20.6 million, 30 acres

In one of the largest—and most unusual—land deals in recent history, the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association purchased 30 acres of waterfront property in Placida (which is in the 941 area code) at the entrance to the Boca Grande Causeway in Charlotte County. Jag Grewal of Ian Black Real Estate represented the seller, Boca Norte LLC, in the cash deal, in which more than 1,100 residents and GCIA members contributed the funds necessary to purchase the tract. Gulf to Bay Sotheby’s International served as the seller’s agent. The association plans to demolish the structures on the property and protect it as a habitat for birds, animals and marine life in perpetuity. It took just a few months for the group’s 1,100-plus contributors, many of whom are deep-pocketed Boca Grande residents who made multimillion-dollar donations, to raise the necessary funds.

INDUSTRIAL

The eight-month flip—This property—the former Venice Chrysler lot—on South Tamiami Trail on the island of Venice just south of Center Road sold for around $4.3 million, notable since it was sold in 2015 for $2.3 million. The previous owner, investor Joe Collins of Casey Key, seems to have made $2 million in roughly eight months. The new buyer is a Texas company called Cross Development.

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The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is hopping from its modern headquarters  to the SunTrust next door.

Big Deals 

EASIEST HEADQUARTERS RELOCATION 

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

—The Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s decision to move its headquarters this year was notable for the iconic building it would be leaving behind. When it opened in 2005, the Herald-Tribune’s modern headquarters, designed by Miami-based global firm Arquitectonica, reflected a boom time in real estate and complementary skyrocketing ad sales. But times change, and after a series of cost-cutting measures and layoffs, the Herald-Tribune’s latest owner, New York-based Gatehouse Media, hired Bell Tenant Champions to help search for a new headquarters. They needed only to look next door. The Herald-Tribune’s 110 employees will occupy the fourth, fifth and ninth floors of the much less remarkable SunTrust bank building.

BEST COMEBACK

Westfield Southgate Mall

—The departure of most of its upscale tenants like Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma and Saks Fifth Avenue two years ago for the new Mall at University Town Center dealt a big blow to venerable old Westfield Southgate. Westfield is fighting back with its revitalized “lifestyle center” concept—first, with a flurry of interior upgrades and a host of new retailers, including Abercrombie & Fitch, then the upscale CineBistro cinema/restaurant complex that opened last spring, and now with construction on several new restaurants at the northwest corner of Siesta Drive and Tamiami Trail. A CycleBar indoor cycling gym will join the mix later this year, as will a branch of LA Fitness, heading to the old Dillard’s location.

TOP CIVIC PROJECT

Siesta Key Public Beach

—After nearly 10 years of planning, two years of construction and more than $21 million in public money, the recently completed redesign of the Siesta Key Public Beach pavilion, parking lot and entryway has elevated America’s No. 1 beach into one of the all-time great community parks. Kudos to Sweet Sparkman Architects for the broad, paved pedestrian esplanade; elevated concession stand (an outstanding spot to watch the sunset); nifty geometric concrete picnic shelters; and dramatic cantilevered beach pavilion that adjoins the original 1960 pavilion designed by architect Tim Seibert. 

TOP RENOVATION

Wells Fargo Advisors Building

—After it purchased Sarasota’s 13-story Ellis Building at the corner of Main Street and Orange Avenue, Benderson Development Co. turned to Solstice Planning and Architecture to reignite one of downtown Sarasota’s most visible buildings. The renamed Wells Fargo building has since seen a complete overhaul of its façade and a new entryway. The renovation was enough to lure Michael Saunders & Company to relocate its downtown sales center to the building’s first floor. It joins Synovus Bank and Orangetheory Fitness, which also recently moved there.

MOST CONTROVERSIAL PROJECT

Vue Sarasota Bay/Westin Sarasota

The Kolter Group’s massive $120-million Vue Sarasota Bay, the 141-unit residential tower, and its neighboring 255-room Westin hotel, have created a firestorm of controversy. Located on the critical corner of Tamiami Trail and Gulf Stream Avenue, The Vue has Sarasotans questioning the city’s planning process and spurred the launch of STOP, a group that wants less administrative approval and more citizen input on new projects. With condos listed as high as $3.4 million, affordable housing this is not. The project was originally slated for completion in late 2016, but it looks like we’ll be well into 2017 before residents will start moving in.

TOP ROAD PROJECT

Diamond Interchange at I-75 and University Parkway

Given fast-track funding by Gov. Rick Scott, the $74.5 million diverging diamond interchange (DDI) now under construction at I-75 and University Parkway is causing traffic jams at the moment, but when it’s finished in September 2017, it should alleviate gridlock at one of Sarasota’s busiest commercial corridors. The construction deadline for the fancy DDI—the first in Florida—is tight. The World Rowing Championships at Nathan Benderson Park, which is situated at that intersection, starts Sept. 24 and is expected to bring in thousands of athletes, their families and spectators.

TOP BRIDGE BUILDER

Fort Hamer Bridge Project

The $32.69 million Fort Hamer Bridge will be only 2,300 feet long when completed in 2017, but its impact as a catalyst for growth in northeast Manatee County will be mighty. The two-lane bridge will provide a new and much-needed north-south corridor across the Manatee River, and will link Lakewood Ranch to Parrish. It’s set to open sometime next summer.

BEST INFILL PROJECT

Whitfield Warehouse Project

The warehouse at 2651 Whitfield Ave. was in rough shape when Raynat Properties of Sarasota purchased this bank-owned property for $645,000 in February 2015. Keller Williams Realty of Manatee served as the listing agent for the property, which has a 25,000-square-foot warehouse on 2.5 acres. Raynat investor Ray Gibson, who also works as a commercial real estate agent for Preferred Commercial Inc., did a major overhaul of the property in 2016, according to Preferred Commercial owner Carl Wise, the buyer’s broker. “[It was] an amazing amount of work, not counting the electrical and air-conditioning replacement.” The warehouse is now leased to Tile and Stone of Italy.

BEST CULTURAL PROJECT

Center for Asian Art at the Ringling Museum

World-class contemporary architecture came to The Ringling earlier this year in the form of the $10 million Center for Asian Art. The 7,500-square-foot building, clad in more than 3,000 custom-designed glazed jade-green terra cotta tiles, stands in striking—and yet somehow harmonious—contrast to the rest of the Ringling complex. Boston’s Machado Silvetti architectural firm designed the “jewel box,” which contains gallery space for The Ringling’s burgeoning Asian art collection, a multipurpose lecture hall and study rooms for researchers and students.

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BIGGEST INFILL CHALLENGE

Main Plaza

East Main Street is due for a facelift, and this underused 8.5-acre cinema/mall property could be the catalyst. A group that includes local entrepreneurs Jesse Biter, Eric Baird and David Chessler purchased it in 2015 for $18.1 million. Longtime tenant the Sarasota Family YMCA is already out (to the dismay of its devotees), and the Hollywood 20 movie complex’s lease will be up in May 2017. Skeptics point out that the building has a strange configuration and might need a teardown. But the new owners are saying upgrades will happen, taking place in phases, including added retail and a refurbished Hollywood 20.

COOLEST APARTMENTS

One Palm
Sarasota’s downtown apartment boom took off with the January opening of One Palm, the 10-story, 141-apartment complex on Palm Avenue and Ringling Boulevard. With its rooftop pool and bar, cyber café, fitness center and a location on one of the prettiest corners of Sarasota—plus its close proximity to the Aloft Hotel, the waterfront and downtown restaurants and clubs—it leased immediately and has a long waiting list. Next up: The DeSota by Atlanta-based developer Carter. It’s a 10-story, 180-unit luxury apartment building that will include 15,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space on Second Street just north of Whole Foods. Completion is expected in 2017.

BEST PARK PROJECT

Tuscano Park

Major changes are coming to this county-owned 11-acre park in Venice. A $13.5 million investment will bring increased parking and new playgrounds, bathrooms and pavilion. Future phases will see new trails in the park, an amphitheater hill and lighted multi-use fields. Tuscano Park, which is located at the intersection of Taylor Ranch Trail and Tamiami Trail near Taylor Ranch Elementary, sits on land that was gifted to the county under the condition that it would be turned into a park. It has the potential to become a recreation hub for the nearby Plantation community.

BIGGEST BRADENTON BOOSTER

SpringHill Suites

In 2017, expect to see one of Marriott’s SpringHill Suites hotels rise at the former longtime site of the Manatee Players, opposite Bradenton City Hall. The $17 million project calls for a nine-story building with a 3,500-square-foot restaurant. It will add 120 much-needed hotel rooms in the heart of downtown Bradenton. The Manatee Players moved to the $21 million Manatee Performing Arts Center a few blocks east in 2013.

BIGGEST CULTURAL UPGRADE

South Florida Museum Expansion

The South Florida Museum is expanding its footprint in downtown Bradenton. The $12 million project includes a hands-on exploration wing for children 2-8, a large multipurpose room for public programs, aquarium upgrades for Snooty the manatee and friends, plus upgrades to the planetarium and more. The added exhibition space will allow for major national exhibitions to come to Bradenton. The museum has raised nearly the entire $12 million to fund the expansion.

BIGGEST RENAISSANCE

The Rosemary District

With eight multi-family residential complexes in the works, downtown Sarasota’s long-suffering Rosemary District is finally coming into its own—thanks in large part to the overlay district approved by the city of Sarasota in 2014 that allows for greater density, and despite the scores of homeless people who continue to congregate outside the nearby Salvation Army shelter. CitySide, whose 228 apartments stretch along Cocoanut Avenue from Sixth to 10th streets, is slated for occupancy this fall. It will be joined by boutique condominium projects under way like Vanguard Lofts, Risdon on 5th and the mixed-use Rosemary Square. When all eight projects are completed, city officials predict as many as 6,000 new Rosemary District residents. 

HOTTEST SECTOR

Hotels

The opening of the 138-room Aloft Hotel on Ringling Boulevard and South Palm Avenue in February started an avalanche of new downtown Sarasota hotels, with a whopping 912 hotel rooms to open by the end of 2017. Already under construction are the Westin Hotel, part of The Vue complex at Gulfstream and Tamiami Trail; the Embassy Suites at Second Street and Tamiami Trail; and Hotel Sarasota, adjacent to the Palm Avenue parking garage. Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota County, says new hotels will bring new visitors, including business travelers loyal to the Aloft and Westin brands. And hotel fever has struck the island of Venice, for the first time in more than 20 years. Three hotel projects have been proposed: one on the site of the former circus arena at the island’s southern gateway, another on the site of the former Classics Steakhouse near the entrance to downtown, and a third on the site of the current U.S. Post Office at Venice Avenue and Harbor Drive. Plus, downtown Sarasota’s Hyatt Regency just sold for $75 million.

BEST ONE THAT GOT AWAY

Bass Pro Shops

—Since July 2014, it seemed like a given that Bass Pro Shop would anchor a new commercial development on the northeast corner of I-75 and Fruitville Road. This year, the deal fell apart, and Bass Pro Shops terminated the contract that would have brought an 80,000-square-foot store to the property. The land’s trustee, G. David Walters of the Walters’ Trust, told local media that plans for a mixed-use community are in the works.

TOP RESIDENTIAL REALTORS

Here are the 12 Realtor members of the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee who have the highest sales (by dollar volume) from Sept. 1, 2015 through Aug. 31, 2016. All sales volumes are self-reported and reflect the sum of the closed sales price of every property. (The sales price was not doubled if the agent represented both buyer and seller.)

Roger Pettingell

Coldwell Banker 

Sales Volume: $77,428,000

Top sale: $5.25 million, 1201 Hillview Drive, Sarasota. A 3,700-square-foot, classic 1950’s Paul Rudolph-designed residence called The Burnett House. Pettingell was the selling agent.

Judy Kepecz-Hays

Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate 

Sales volume: $69,332,753

Top sale: $5.2-million Longboat Key bayfront home.

Barbara Ackerman

Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate

Sales volume: $69,322,000

Top sale:  $2.8 million, a 3,659-square-foot, all-white, ultra-modern home at 6860 Pine St. on north Longboat Key’s bayfront.

Amy Drake

Ascentia Realty Group 

Sales volume: $67,972,000

Top sale: $4.25 million, a 3,940-square-foot, four-bedroom penthouse at Aria on Longboat Key.

Lynne Koy

Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate

Sales volume: $51,077,062. 

Top sale: $4.93 million, 364 W. Royal Flamingo Drive, a bayfront, 6,289-square-foot home on Bird Key.

Bruce Myer

Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate  

Sales Volume: $50,233,750

Top sale: $6.2 million, 3331 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, a Gulf-front, five-bedroom, 5,264-square-foot home.

Stephanie Church

Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate

Sales volume: $38,871,865

Top sale: $7.1 million, 1204 Hillview Drive, a Clifford M. Scholz-designed home with five bedrooms on the Sarasota bayfront.

Ian Addy and Gail Wittig

Michael Saunders & Company

Sales volume: $38,133,700

Top sale: $5.1 million, on 9/25/2015, 901 Norsota Way, a 6,438-square-foot, five-bedroom home overlooking the bay and Ringling Bridge on Siesta Key.

Kim Ogilvie

Michael Saunders & Company

Sales volume:  $61,505,000

Top sale: $5.25 million, 1201 Hillview Drive, Burnett House. See Pettingell description at left. Ogilvie was the listing agent.

Jim Soda

Premier Sotheby’s International Realty

Sales Volume: $54,800,324.00

Top sale: $2.53 million home in The Lake Club.

Patrick DiPinto III

Ocean Real Estate LLC

Sales volume: $35,946,400

Top sale: $4.25 million, a four-bedroom Gulf-front unit with a private swimming pool at Aria on Longboat Key.

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