A Model Office

By Hannah Wallace October 31, 2007

Last spring, when developer David Nash started the Northwood Business Park on Lockwood Ridge just south of University Parkway in Sarasota, he knew he had to be creative to sell in the softening market.

The result is a three-story office condominium—the first of two—surrounded by stately oak trees and filled with French doors and wrought-iron verandas. But he went beyond aesthetics by cleverly borrowing residential real estate’s time-honored marketing concept—a “model” to lure buyers.

Nash, after all, has been a residential developer; he’s developed The Meadows Country Club, several area condominium projects, and Tern Bay in Charlotte County.

“Commercial has been like the old boys’ network—here’s the shell, just take it,” says Steve Horn, an associate with Ian Black Real Estate, which is marketing the 2.76-acre project. “It’s not like office users create space every day; we’re trying to create a vision.”

The model office, unusual in Southwest Florida, will be about 1,500 square feet and have window treatments, furniture, cabinets and a variety of finishes on display.

“With commercial, it’s not like we can offer a lot of amenities,” says Horn. “The market has forced us to think outside the box.”

The first 18,451 square-foot building at Northwood is nearing completion and will have three to 12 units, with between 587 square feet to 15,000 square feet. Office condos are selling for $280 per square foot for the shell and Horn says it’ll cost about $45 a square foot to finish.

“This office condo is set up on a system of grids on each floor,” says Nash. “We can sell on a customized basis. We have some typical space planning to take out the guess work. It’s a marketing approach that recognizes time is money.”

The company is promoting the park to professionals and those in the medical field.

“The flexible space is ideal for engineers and architects who may not need more than 500 square feet.” says Horn. “We can connect offices with spiral staircases.”

Nash purchased the property from Robert Martin about 14 months ago and, at the time, plans called for leveling the mature oak trees and building single-story buildings, more typical in the area.

But Nash decided to preserve the trees and add a third story. It was a good trade-off, Nash says, because he was able to add about 7,000 square feet. The third floor offices are in the tree canopy; French doors open to small verandas.

Although it’s not a documented green project, the trees’ shade canopy and smart building materials have made Northwood much more energy efficient, Nash says.

The building has six entrances, so each business can have its own, and 134 parking spaces. Horn says they minimized common areas, giving condo owners more useable space.

“Owners are getting more value for their buck because they’re not paying for space they can’t use,” Horn says.

Construction on the second 18,451-square-foot building won’t begin until sales are under way on the first. Although they hadn’t sold any of the condos at publication time, Horn says the park’s location near University Parkway, a few miles from the airport and I-75 will be a big draw.

“You’re a little off the beaten path on Lockwood but still in the middle of everything,” Horn says.

Architect Don Lawson is the architect and Construction Team Management is building it.

Northwood Business Park is the first commercial project for Nash’s new entity, IME Office Parks. Nash is also developing residential projects at Bradenton Beach, in the Bahamas and in Panama.

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