The city of Venice has hired a broker to sell the Hamilton Building at 245 North Tamiami Trail.
Officially, Ian Black Real Estate, a Sarasota-based commercial real estate brokerage firm, has been named the real estate broker of record for the city.
“In addition to general sales and lease agreements, we will also serve as advisers to the city as they look to acquire new properties or sell additional properties,” said the firm’s Linda Emery in a press statement announcing the hiring.
But the relationship arose out of the City Council’s decision to sell the building, which it bought in 2015 for about $1 million.
The purchase was made with the thought that the land could be used in the future as a parking lot or perhaps a parking garage. In the meantime, the county approached the city about using the building as a temporary library while a replacement for the Venice Public Library was being built.
The new library opened Dec. 15, leaving the Hamilton Building vacant again. By then, the city had added several hundred parking spaces around downtown, reducing the likelihood the property would be used for that.
After analysis, city staff concluded it really isn’t needed for anything else, either.
One possible use was as additional office space for city staff. But there’s a plan to expand City Hall in conjunction with the construction of a replacement for adjacent Fire Station 1 that would keep operations centralized.
Another possibility was letting the Venice Museum & Archives have the space, but start-up costs for a museum annex would be about $750,000, City Manager Ed Lavallee said, with annual costs of $140,000.
In addition, Lavallee said that the possibility of having a museum annex separated from the so-called Culture Campus shared with the Venice Community Center and library caused some “angst.”
There was a suggestion of converting the building to a clinic or gym for city employees but that would also involve new costs when the city’s focus should be on using the building to produce revenue, Lavallee said.
The options in that regard would be to lease the building or sell it.
Mayor John Holic and Council Member Bob Daniels supported leasing the building for now, to maintain a revenue stream. But they couldn’t persuade any of their colleagues to take selling it off the table.
Its market value remains about $1 million, Lavallee said, while estimates of the annual rent that could be brought in run from about $140,000 to $160,000 a year.
But under a lease the city would still have maintenance and repair responsibilities and it’s already known that the building needs a new roof, which will cost about $125,000.
In addition, tenants might want the city to re-install some interior walls that the county removed to open the 9,400-square-foot building up for a library.
A majority of Council members agreed with Vice Mayor Rich Cautero, who said the building isn’t a “core government asset.”
The proceeds of selling it could go toward the replacement fire station or the new public safety facility, for which preliminary cost estimates exceeded the amount generated by issuing voter-approved bonds.
The wild card in a sale is that selling the Hamilton Building property will resurrect a problem that buying it solved: The nearby building where Venice Area Beautification Inc. has its office is only accessible by driving across the Hamilton Building property.
It’s also only possible for emergency vehicles to access the northern part of the Venetian Waterway Park from that area by crossing it.
The buyer of the property will need to grant an easement to the city to address those problems.