Benderson mall p65pwg
Illustrations by Rob Jones

 

Founded in 1950 in Buffalo, N.Y., Benderson Development Company is one of the nation’s largest private real estate companies, owning, developing and managing retail, commercial, hotel and residential properties in 38 states.

 

Benderson first made its mark on Sarasota in 1998 when it purchased a dying outlet mall near University Parkway and I-75 and upgraded the property to The Shoppes at University Town Center. More nearby retail developments followed: The Square at University Town Center, The Market at University Town Center, The District at University Town Center and, of course, The Mall at University Town Center. The projects have transformed the University Parkway corridor into a bustling center of commerce, dining and shopping.

 

In 2004, the company moved its corporate headquarters to Sarasota, where it’s become an advocate for economic development and has supported a number of causes. It also partnered with the county to build Nathan Benderson Park, which includes a rowing facility that has hosted competitions since 2010 and will be the site of the World Rowing Championships in 2017.

 

As Benderson’s local portfolio has exploded, so has its influence. The company has made major investments in the community, creating jobs and economic growth, but some complain that it has too much sway over county officials. That perception was heightened in April, when a jury ruled that the company and another Sarasota developer, Henry Rodriguez, attempted to use relationships with some commissioners to conspire against former business partner Hugh Culverhouse. They were ordered to pay Culverhouse $20 million in damages. A judge later reversed the jury’s decision and threw out almost all of the $20 million verdict.

 

To get a clearer picture of the company’s local footprint, we ran the numbers.

 

Nathan Benderson

 

(1917-2012). A child of the Depression, he made his first real estate deal in 1949 when he redeveloped a bankrupt brewery in Buffalo, N.Y. The company he later founded transformed much of Buffalo. A major philanthropist, he supported causes in New York and Sarasota.

 

Randy Benderson

 

Nathan’s son, Randy, 60, acts as president of Benderson Development and serves on the board of the Nathan Benderson Park Foundation, which is responsible for raising private funds to partially support construction at the Nathan Benderson Park rowing facility.

 

Shaun Benderson

 

An executive vice president with Benderson Development, Shaun, 34, joined his father, Randy, when Benderson Development moved its headquarters from Buffalo to Sarasota.

 

The Company

 

 

700-plus

 

No. of properties owned by Benderson Development Company

 

Source: Benderson website, “About us”

 

40 million-plus

 

National square footage owned by Benderson

 

Source: Benderson website, “About us”

 

14.2 million

 

Square footage of property owned by Benderson and related companies in Sarasota County

 

Source: Sarasota County Property Appraiser

 

$55.4 million

 

Just (market) value of those Sarasota County properties

 

Source: Sarasota County Property Appraiser

 

22.5 million

 

Square footage of property owned by Benderson and related companies in Manatee County

 

Source: Manatee County Property Appraiser

 

$176.4 million

 

Just value of those Manatee County properties

 

Source: Manatee County Property Appraiser

 

840.6

 

Total minimum acreage of properties in both counties

 

Source: Sarasota and Manatee County Property Appraisers

 

 

 

The Mall 

 

 

880,000

 

Square footage of The Mall at University Town Center

 

Source: Benderson and Taubman Centers press release

 

$315 million

 

Cost of mall development

 

Source: Benderson and Taubman Centers press release

 

$7.1 million

 

Total impact fees paid by Benderson, Taubman, Macy’s, Saks and Dillard’s to Sarasota County for the mall

 

Source: Sarasota County

 

$142,000

 

Property taxes paid on the mall by Benderson and Taubman in 2014

 

Source: Sarasota County tax collector

 

$7.1 million

 

State’s total design cost for the diverging diamond interchange at University Parkway and I-75

 

Source: Florida Department of Transportation website

 

276

 

Acreage of Sarasota Interstate Park of Commerce

 

Source: Benderson Development Concept Plan

 

500

 

Proposed number of nearby hotel rooms

 

Source: Benderson Development Concept Plan

 

1,750

 

Proposed number of nearby residential units

 

Source: Benderson Development Concept Plan

 

1,000

 

Estimated number of construction workers employed to build the mall

 

Source: Mall fact sheet

 

2,000

 

Estimated number of mall employees

 

Source: Mall fact sheet

 

$83 million

 

State’s total estimated cost of diverging diamond interchange

 

Source: Gov. Rick Scott press release

 

Benderson rowing nzjrev

 

The Rowing Park

 

 

602

 

Acreage of Nathan Benderson Park, owned by Sarasota County

 

Source: Sarasota County Property Appraiser

 

$18.8 million

 

Amount contributed by Sarasota County to pay for rowing facility construction

 

Source: Sarasota County

 

$10 million

 

Amount so far approved for the project by the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott

 

Source: Sarasota County

 

$11 million

 

2015 fund-raising goal of the Nathan Benderson Park Foundation

 

Source: Nathan Benderson Park Foundation

 

$11 million

 

Additional funds the Nathan Benderson Park Foundation will be seeking from the Florida Legislature this year

 

Source: Nathan Benderson Park Foundation

 

$463,722

 

Maximum recurring annual expenses Sarasota may have to pay for park maintenance, personnel and more

 

Source: Sarasota County

 

$10 million-plus

 

Amount the Benderson family has so far invested in the rowing park, through cash and in-kind donations to Sarasota County and Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates (SANCA).

 

Source: Benderson Development Co.

 

40,000

 

Projected number of park visitors for the 2017 World Rowing Championships

 

Source: USRowing

 

$24.6 million

 

Projected economic impact of the 2017 championships

 

Source: USRowing

 

Benderson aerial fgb8im
An aerial look at the mall and rowing park.

 

 

 

The Political Contributions

 

 

$225,000

 

Amount donated by the Benderson family and company to Gov. Rick Scott’s 2014 re-election campaign

 

Source: Let’s Get to Work website

 

1

 

Rank of Benderson among all donors to Rick Scott’s re-election campaign in Sarasota-Manatee

 

Source: Let's Get to Work website

 

$175,000

 

Amount donated by Benderson Development to the Republican Party of Florida in 2014

 

Source: Florida Division of Elections website

 

$25,000

 

Amount donated by Benderson Development to a PAC run by state Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, in 2014

 

Source: Florida Division of Elections website

 

10

 

Number of $200 maximum contributions to Sarasota County Commissioner Alan Maio’s 2014 campaign by the Benderson family and related companies

 

Source: Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections website

 

$8,500

 

Amount donated to Manatee County Commission campaigns in 2014

 

Source: Manatee County Supervisor of Elections website

 

$135,600

 

Amount donated since 2006 to the campaigns of U.S. Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Florida’s 13th District

 

Source: Federal Election Commission

 

The Charities

 

Nathan Benderson was renowned for his philanthropy, and the company has continued the tradition of giving in its new hometown. The company declines to disclose the amounts it has given; among the charities it supports are these: Gulf Coast Community Foundation, JFCS, Nathan Benderson Park Foundation, Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue, All Faiths Food Bank, Boys and Girls Club of Sarasota County, Kobernick Anchin, the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, Selah Freedom and the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County. Source: Benderson Development Company