MANATEE -- A massive mixed-use development along Sarasota Bay in Manatee County has resumed after a six-year hiatus and brief flirt with foreclosure.
The Long Bar Pointe project -- one of the largest proposed in the region during the housing boom -- gained new life this week when ownership was restructured on its 523 acres of waterfront land.
A foreclosure auction on the property had been scheduled for next Tuesday. But Sarasota Developer Larry Lieberman sidestepped it by partnering with prominent Bradenton home-builder and Republican activist Carlos Beruff to reshape the plans, court records show.
In 2006, Lieberman had been given the green light by Manatee County commissioners for a 1,600-unit development of condos, townhouses and single-family homes at the site.
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But the project sputtered during the recession, and Lieberman's company SBC Development LLP was hit with a $13.3 million foreclosure judgement on its LandMark Bank loans.
Terms of the new ownership share with Beruff were not disclosed, but Beruff said it will be a joint venture, with both sides assuming some risk and splitting the profits when they
"In our business, you have to roll the dice sometimes," said Beruff, who owns Medallion Homes in Bradenton. "It's a gem. This is the last waterfront property in Manatee of this size that's developable."
Beruff hopes to have a refined plan for Long Bar Pointe within the next 12 months, which likely will require new approval from county commissioners.
Initial blueprints of the development call for a mix of multi-family and single-family dwellings, with some commercial space, a resort-style hotel and a convention center.
Developers didn't specify how many units the concept can support, but they still see the original plan for 1,600 as a realistic goal. Final site plans ultimately will dictate the number of homes constructed.
Long Bar Pointe stretches some 2.5 miles along Sarasota Bay, south of Tidy Island near the intersection of 53rd Avenue West and 75th Street West. It's directly adjacent to the IMG Academies' future expansion site.
Beruff said a key selling point in the deal was the recent extension of El Conquistador Parkway, which will be finished by the county this year, greatly increasing access to the property.
That project was funded in part through impact fees paid by SBC in 2006.
"The road springboards the desire to resume focus on the other developments and, of course, the market is getting better in our estimations," Lieberman said. "Everyone is anxious to see this area come alive again."
SBC began acquiring property for the project in 2001, racking up $14.65 million in loans until 2007, when activity on the site went quiet, according to the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court.
Long Bar Pointe fought a long battle for its initial approval, with some pushback from environmental groups wary of the impact to coastal wildlife. The property faces Sarasota Bay but will be set back from the mangrove areas directly on the water.
Brazilian pepper trees inhabiting the property have been cleared, but to date, nothing has been built.
The single-family component now will be the first aspect to come online, Lieberman said.
"That contrasts with the previous plans to start with high-rise waterfront condos first," he said. "Now the market dictates we do it the other way around."
Analysts see the new momentum as another sign of the healing that's been evident of real estate, with demand for new housing picking up and finance requirements easing.
That trend ultimately should spark a resurgence in construction jobs.
The key will be to maintain growth at a sustainable pace, instead of the dangerous balloon that popped in 2008, said Gary Jackson, director of Regional Economic Research Institute and economics professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.
"Developers are gearing up and thinking about the future," he said. "They will have to be a little more careful. We still have some adjustments to be made in housing and financial, but the economy is improving."
Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman.