Business briefs: Apartment rents on the rise

April 29, 2014 

MANATEE -- Apartment rents are up in Manatee and Sarasota counties, but there are still good deals to be had for renters who don't need a lot of privacy.

In March, apartment vacancy rates generally dropped or stayed flat from February as rental rates increased across all categories. However, apartment seekers in Manatee County who had their hearts set on a studio unit were in luck. Studio vacancies continued a year-long rocket ride, hitting almost 9 percent, while average rental rates edged up almost imperceptibly to just under $700, according to statistics compiled by Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT.

The rest of the market saw higher prices and less availability. One-, two- and three-bedroom unit vacancies dropped to about 3 percent in Manatee County. Rental rates were up, with the average monthly price of a three-bedroom touching $1,225. The one-bedroom average rental rate it $790.

Apartments were even more pricey and rare in Sarasota County. The vacancy rate for one-, two- and three-bedroom units was about 2.5 percent in March. Studio units showed an average of 3.5-percent vacancy.

A three-bedroom apartment in Sarasota County rented for an average of about $1,300 a month. One-bedroom apartments were actually a better deal than studios, pricing at an average of $830 versus $850 for the no-bedroom units.

Gov. Scott backs growler half-gallon legalization

TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott supports the legalization of the refillable half-gallon beer containers known as growlers among craft beer lovers.

But Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said Tuesday whether he signs a bill to allow 64-ounce growler sales at Florida craft breweries is still to be determined.

Breweries can now sell unlimited gallon and quart growlers, but Florida's odd container laws prohibit the half-gallon size that's the industry standard in 47 states. Legalizing the half-gallon size is the top priority this legislative session for the booming craft beer industry.

But a Senate bill ties the growler size to more regulation that would hurt the craft beer industry and slow its growth. A House bill would allow 64-ounce growlers with no strings attached.

Scott has repeatedly said he opposes regulations that cost jobs.

Neal Communities joins group to promote diversity

MANATEE COUNTY -- Neal Communities has donated $10,000 to Embracing Our Differences.

The money will be used for educational initiatives, including the organization's Make-A-Day-of-It! program, which provides free transportation for thousands of students and teachers to visit the outdoor exhibits and other arts and cultural venues.

The Make-A-Day-of-It! program immerses students in a day of diversity appreciation.

More than 25,000 students throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties will receive free field trips in 2014, thanks to sponsorships and grants, according to Michael Shelton, executive director of Embracing Our Differences.

Last year, in celebration of the exhibit's tenth anniversary, it was brought to Bradenton and returned there this year for an expanded 2 month run. The Embracing Our Differences exhibits are being showcased simultaneously in Sarasota's Island Park and at Bradenton's Riverwalk through May.

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Herald staff and wire reports

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