University Professional Park

By Hannah Wallace March 31, 2008

University Professional Park, Burton-Katzman’s brand-new, Class A office condominium, rose from the ground in only seven months in 2007. But given this year’s higher office vacancy rates, sales are progressing at a slower pace.

Office vacancy along the University Parkway corridor increased from 6 percent at the end of 2006 to nearly 11 percent at the close of 2007. At the same time, vacancy rates rose to 7 percent from 4.25 percent a year ago in downtown Sarasota and more than 12 percent along I-75 from Fruitville to Clark roads.

The real estate development and construction firm that landed in Sarasota in a big way in 2005 has altered its marketing strategy to reflect the current business climate. “There are definitely short-term issues in the condo market primarily affecting the velocity of sales,” says Conrad Schewe, vice president of project development for Burton-Katzman. “We’re exploring short-term promotional prices. We’ll revisit every three months and adjust according to the market.”

Originally constructed as a two-building office condo project, Burton-Katzman is now targeting one building to buyers and the second to rental clients. The price per square foot has dropped about $25, to start at $275, with a $4.23 per square foot condo assessment, or $23 per square foot to lease.

Diane Lawson of Abbey Realty began marketing the space in 2007 after Tandem Construction broke ground on the $5 million buildings. By January, she had sold 18,000 square feet to undisclosed buyers. The target market is physicians’ offices, healthcare companies, high-end professionals and educational firms.

Located on 12 acres fronting Honore Avenue near University Parkway, University Professional Park is in the middle of a burgeoning commercial hub of retail and restaurants, with I-75 access just minutes away. “Potential owners like that it’s easy to get in and out of, and it’s dead center between the Sarasota and Bradenton markets,” says Lawson. “We’re getting great feedback on the appearance of the buildings.”

The two-story, upscale structures house a total of 85,000 square feet, which can be sold in suites as small as 750 or as large as 22,000 square feet for a floor. First-floor owners have the option of constructing private entrances so that clients or patients don’t have to walk through the building to get to an office.

A 1.23-acre out parcel, which is for sale for $1.6 million, has drawn attention mostly from banking institutions. “It’s unique in that it has all the site work—curbing, fill, utilities, drainage—complete,” Lawson says.

Benderson Development’s future 1.7-million-square-foot University Town Center will be just around the corner. On the north side of University Parkway, Benderson plans to develop a plaza that will house Fresh Market, a Whole Foods-type grocery store, and a Kohl’s department store.

Office condominiums are considered most advantageous for established professional firms that have a good handle on their long-term space requirements. Owners can benefit from tax deductions, build equity and have control over their monthly expenses.

“There’s still a lot of action in the market, and in our particular sub-market, there’s not a lot of competition,” says Schewe. “We think from a long-term perspective that the market is very good.”

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