Manatee School Board's 'Checkers' property back on market

eearl@bradenton.comJuly 3, 2013 

MANATEE -- The Manatee County School District has listed its human resources building and surrounding property for sale -- again.

Known as the Checkers/Owens property because it once contained a Checkers Drive-In and housed the district's Human Resources Department in what was known as the Bill Owens Annex, the 65,210-square-foot commercial property is located on the southwest corner of Manatee Avenue and First Street West.

The board approved Blackrock Development's $1.65 million offer May 6. The real estate development and construction company put down a $50,000 deposit and the deal was to close by the end of June when the school district's fiscal year ends.

Money from the sale was supposed to help the district end the year with a little padding in the reserves.

However, Blackrock sent a letter to the school district June 12 announcing it was terminating its contract.

Blackrock handles development for PDQ restaurants, a chain of casual quick-service restaurants in North Carolina, South Carolina and parts of Florida. PDQ has a new location under construction on South Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.

"We tied up the site, but then determined it would not work for access and for what we looked for in terms of demographics," said Tim Vining, Blackrock Development owner. "We felt this site would not work for our concept. It is a good site but it wouldn't work for us."

School board Chairwoman Karen Carpenter said Blackrock came in quickly after an offer from Gold Glove Ventures did not work out. She said she was surprised the seemingly smooth approval did not work out for the restaurant company.

"It was a great property; I don't know why they withdrew," Carpenter said.

Carpenter said the board was hoping to net proceeds from the sale for the capital projects fund by the end of the fiscal year June 30.

Carpenter said the money would have been restricted for capital, which allows paying debt from construction projects and paying for equipment repairs and replacement as needed.

Don Hall, deputy superintendent of operations, said the termination is a financial disappointment,

"It changes the ending fund balance," Hall said. "But because we anticipate selling it, it will offset the difference."

Hall said he expects to know the closing reserve balance in August.

Hall said the school board can designate the proceeds for a specific project, but he doesn't know what they will decide at this point.

School board member Bob Gause said he was not surprised by Blackrock's decision.

"I had already heard that it might not happen," Gause said.

Gause has removed himself from votes surrounding the sale of the Checkers and Owen's Annex property because of potential conflict. He owns the developer consulting firm Allison Gause Inc.

However, he agrees with Carpenter the property has potential.

"It has great visibility and great traffic count," Gause said. "It has great potential for the right user."

The property has been declared surplus for two years, and the board has been trying to sell it since 2011.

The school board rejected an offer from Gold Glove Ventures LLC earlier this year, the second time it rejected an offer from Gold Glove Ventures, which tried first to buy the property in 2011.

The school board bought the property in 2004 for $1.4 million, and had an offer two years ago from Gold Glove Ventures for $2.2 million, but the sale fell through after school board members balked at paying a $400,000 commission.

Carpenter said the school board rejected the latest offer from Gold Glove Ventures because the company's $25,000 deposit was not enough for a $1.6 million sale. Carpenter said the board also turned the contract down because it still did not have enough information about the buyer.

Carpenter said it is unlikely, but she would reconsider a contract offer from Gold Glove.

"Maybe they will come back, but they will have to put up more money and show substantial credibility to buy the property," Carpenter said. "They would also need to meet our criteria by explaining who the buyer is and what they are going to do with the property."

The instructional materials center sale did close June 22e. The school board approved the $150,000 sale May 6 of property to Firkins Automotive at 109 26th Ave. W. The money came in before fiscal year end.

The Manatee District has issued a new request for proposal to put the Checkers/Owens property back up for sale.

"We need to try to sell it, and the district can use the money," Gause said.

Offers on the property are due mid-July. Carpenter said the goal is to approve a buyer at the July 22 board meeting.

"It is terrific property," Carpenter said. "It is on a prime corner, has lots of visibility and is a great commercial space."

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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