|Will Randy Benderson’s UTC Mall Turn Into A $320 Million Dollar White Elephant Exposing A Corrupt Political System?
By Jon Susce
|It’s taken Rani Molla and Shelb Bano of Bloomberg News to report what the Sarasota Herald Tribune (SHT) and other so-called “major” media outlets in the area have been covering up: Randy Benderson’s $320 million dollar UTC Mall, not to mention all of the retail stores that Benderson has installed at the University Parkway/I-75 Corridor, could become a financial disaster for Benderson. SEE ATTACHMENT #1|
|SIGNS POINT TO THINGS GETTING WORSE FOR BELEAGUERED MALL OWNERS|
|For example, Molla and Bano write the following: “Macy’s, Nordstrom, J.C. Penney and other department stores have reported another quarter of crummy earnings. They warned that a consumer-spending slump (in their stores, at least) shows no signs of abating and that declines in shopper traffic are getting worse. Chains such as Nordstrom said they were re-thinking plans to open new stores, and others are likely to follow suit.
Meanwhile, bankruptcy filings by Sports Authority, Pacific Sunwear and a rash of other retailers in the past year — coupled with planned store closures by Macy’s, Walmart and other chains — has already led to the highest number of store closures since 2010, according to commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.
The damage is weighing on the publicly traded real estate investment trusts with heavy exposure to America’s retail real estate, including beleaguered mall owners — and all signs point to things getting worse for this group of companies. Shares in North American REITs with a large portion of their investment concentrated in malls are now down 10 percent in the past year, compared with a 6 percent rise across all REITs, according to Bloomberg data.”
|RANDY AND SHAUN BENDERSON ARE NOT NATE BENDERSON|
|Unfortunately what is becoming obvious is that the SHT and other reputed media outlets have failed to investigate and report the fact that Randy and Shaun Benderson do NOT possess the skills of the individual behind Benderson Development past success, the late Nate Benderson. Most importantly Nate Benderson would not have “ripped off” the public as Randy and Shaun Benderson have been doing.
According to those who were closely involved with Benderson Development at the time Nate Benderson ran the operations, and later when Randy and Shaun Benderson took control of Benderson Development—Randy and Shaun Benderson are NOT Nate Benderson
Nate Benderson would never have been involved with a $320 million UTC Mall according to individuals who have spoken to THE SARASOTA PHOENIX. In addition, Nate Benderson would never have had the public finance the Nate Benderson Rowing Park with $millions$ in public funding.
|“THE BENDERSON FAMILY NEEDS TO STEP FORWARD WITH $25 MILLION”|
|Making the public pay for a park named after the family patriarch is outrageous conduct by the Benderson’s and this is echoed by a comment recently made in the SHT concerning the rowing park:
“This park is named for the patriarch of a very wealthy family, Nate Benderson. Since the family is so wealthy — billions — in real estate — that in honor of their 90 plus year old father and grandfather they should fund 100% of this memorial to their father/grandfather. The family needs to step forward with 25 million and finish this job — it is the right thing to do.”
|BENDERSON STUFFS HIS POCKETS WITH $BILLIONS IN PROFITS|
|What is contemptible is that after a 2004 report stating that Benderson Corporation had sold about half of its real estate holdings for $2.3 billion, Benderson continues to ask the general public to contribute $millions, while he greedily stashes these taxpayer dollars into his pockets. Someone needs to tell Benderson that there are no “free lunches.“
It’s way past time for this Randy Benderson Scam to be exposed for what it is. It’s way past time for the Sarasota Herald Tribune to end the cover up of this project—which is now bordering on the criminal.
|SHT FAILS TO INVESTIGATE SHYSTERS|
What is scandalous is that with hundreds of millions of public money appropriated to enhance Benderson’s financial interests around the Corridor, the SHT fails to investigate shysters like the Bendersons and expose the political corruption surrounding this Benderson scam, which involves Sarasota, Manatee and Florida State officials.
When is the SHT led by Publisher Pat Dorsey and Editor Bill Church going to end hiring novice investigative reporters who parachute into Sarasota to write puff pieces and nonsensical articles that their editors assign in a move to distract from and cover up the Benderson scams and political corruption surrounding these scams?
It’s obvious to anyone that doesn’t have a financial interest in the Benderson scams that the so called investigative journalism being served up to the public by the SHT is ignoring the dire financial issues facing Benderson and the scams Benderson has been perpetrating since arriving in Sarasota.
|“MULLET WRAPPER” CONTINUES COVER UP|
For example, the recent article in the SHT by Katy Bergen is simply outrageous and exemplifies how this mullet wrapper continues to cover up the way in which Sarasota County government has funneled millions of public money into Benderson scams. For example, Bergen actually quotes Paul Blackketter, who is the Benderson flunky that has mismanaged this “debacle on the lake.”
|Benderson project manager, Paul Blackketter is the last person to ask about this Benderson scam. If we had any kind of reputable law enforcement agencies in Sarasota, Blackketter would find himself under indictment. SEE ATTACHMENTS #2 , 3, 4 and 5
Bergen quotes Blackketter as saying, “This park is not being built for the World Rowing Championships,” Blackketter said. “It’s being built for return on investment and health and wellness and the betterment of our community. It would be a travesty if we held that boathouse for one game.”
It’s incredible how anyone could give this disgraced Benderson flunky any credibility after he was publicly exposed physically threatening a fellow employee in the most abusive and vulgar fashion. SEE ATTACHMENT #6
This is how one individual responded to Blackketter’s quote found in Bergen’s article. No doubt this individual has more insight into the Benderson “Scam On The Lake” than Bergen or her editors, who have continued to cover up the scams taking place between Sarasota County government and Benderson for years:
|“BLACKKETER AND SANCA HAVE FAILED MISERABLY”|
|“Paul Blackketter should stop insulting the county residents who pay his undeserved and exorbitant salary. He and local officials spent over $100K in public revenue jetting across Europe and Asia to convince World Rowing officials that Sarasota should host the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
His bid presentation showed a boathouse estimated to cost $10 million. Had the boathouse, grandstands, and finish tower been optional, the Sarasota bid would have been rejected–period. Benderson Park was selected over a fully-equipped international rowing venue in Bulgaria. “World-Class” Benderson Rowing was supposed to be completed for the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
Over $40 million in public revenue has been spent on infrastructure and park administration. Corporate support was supposed to fund a state-of-the-art finish tower, boat house and grandstands. SANCA and Benderson Foundation have failed miserably and now they want more public funding to fill the massive funding gap they created.
“Forget it! Not another public nickel for a grandiose pipe dream concocted to justify millions in tax dollars for infrastructure to benefit Benderson’s adjacent commercial properties—sewers, water retention ponds, roads, etc.”The following are other quotes found in the SHT regarding Bergen’s article:
|“NO ROBBER BARON NAME ON IT”|
|“The park should be renamed. I can think of several names to express our anger at being taken for the ride, but would be pleased just to have no robber baron names on it.|
|“CORPORATE WELFARE AT ITS FINEST”|
|“Corporate welfare at its finest, commissioners on Bendersons payroll”|
|“BENDERSON’S PORKHOUSE PARK”|
|“Should the park be re-named: Benderson’s Porkhouse Park”|
|“VENUE IS COMPLETE JOKE”|
|Wow, where is former Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta in this whole mess? Thought he was gonna come to the rescue with his fund raising talents? The “venue” is a complete joke.|
Barbetta is the former County Commissioner who voted $millions of public money on behalf of the Benderson scam and got rewarded through contracts his wife received from Benderson to promote the ongoing scam.
|THE SCAM CONTINUES|
|The latest alleged $5 million, a so called investment by Benderson to build the tower, and for Benderson flunky, Blackketter to award Benderson the contract in a no bid procedure is shameful. Now, the incredible statement that they need another $10 million to build the boathouse is equally shameful.
In addition, no mention in the SHT or that other mullet wrapper, the Sarasota Observer that the recent International Modern Pentathlon event was a disaster in planning and promoting. The SHT and Observer failed to mention that the attendance or should I say, the shocking lack of attendance for this International event, makes the projections for $millions in revenues highly questionable.
|BENDERSON’S CORPORATE WELFARE FREE LUNCH|
It is incredible how this project which started out as an $3 million plan for a few competitive rowing amenities at a county-owned lake has turned into a $70 million dollar corporate welfare “FREE LUNCH” for Randy Benderson. This Buffalo transplant has bought off local and state politicians including Sarasota County Commissioners, Florida State Legislators and Governor Rick Scott in order to have taxpayers pick up the tab for Benderson’s Corporate Welfare Free Lunch at the public trough. SEE ATTACHMENT #7
In December of 2009, Paul Blackketter is quoted in the Sarasota Observer, recollecting a meeting which took place back in 2001, when he was a project manager for Benderson Development. He remembers sitting with his employer, Randy Benderson, discussing Benderson’s plans for the University/I-75 Corridor.
The Benderson plan according to Blackketter was for Benderson to invest ONE MILLION DOLLARS to begin developing the rowing park and make it the centerpiece of various future Benderson development projects along the University Parkway/I-75 Corridor.
This one million dollar investment by Benderson has turned into a multimillion dollar urban sprawl monster that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies to feed the expanding beast along the Corridor.
For a $1 MILLION DOLLAR investment, Benderson has over time received $19.5 MILLION DOLLARS from Sarasota County for construction of the rowing park, $4 MILLION DOLLARS to manage the construction of the rowing park, $17 MILLION DOLLARS to construct the Benderson/Cattlemen Extension adjacent to the rowing park, $15 MILLION DOLLARS from the state of Florida and over $100 MILLION DOLLARS for an interchange at the University/I-75 Corridor , which enhances Benderson’s financial interests at the public’s expense. SEE ATTACHMENT #8
|SCOTT CALLS PROJECT “TURKEY” THEN IS BOUGHT OFF|
What is interesting about Governor Scott’s agreement to supply $10 million dollars in public funds to this Benderson scam is that when state lawmakers set aside funds in 2011 for the Sarasota rowing center, Scott deemed it to have no statewide purpose, and vetoed it. Dubbed a “turkey” by Florida Tax Watch, the rowing center stood out amid $615 million in spending that Scott had axed that year.
It was a defining moment for the new governor, a grand gesture to his tea party base and discontent with government spending. “Special interests probably aren’t happy with the tough choices I made,” Scott said with a swipe of his veto pen, “but I am confident everyone can agree that funding for our children and students is more important than pleasing Tallahassee’s special interests.”
But in 2012 and 2013 Scott allowed the Benderson rowing project $10 million dollars in state funding. As reported in the Tampa Bay Times Scott stated, “It’s an about-face that he says came after boosters of the project convinced him of its statewide impact.” The Tampa Bay Times, unlike Benderson’s mouthpieces working at the SHT and other mullet wrappers in Sarasota and beyond, have exposed the Benderson scam for what it is. SEE ATTACHMENTS # 9, 10 and 11
Scott didn’t mention that two of those boosters were Randy Benderson and Pat Neal whose commercial and residential projects will make $millions building malls and homes around Benderson’s rowing park.
Scott continued, “They showed me the economics of it, and it just makes a lot of sense that we’re going to get all those tourists here,” he said. “And I’m very comfortable that on top of getting all those tourists here, they’re going to spend money, and some of them are going to move their business here and buy some homes here.”
|CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS TURN BENDERSON’S “TURKEY” INTO”GOLDEN GOOSE”|
|The Tampa Bay Times article continued, “But it’s difficult to ignore that those pushing hardest for the state money have made sizable contributions to Scott’s re-election efforts. “For example, Benderson contributed $25,000 last year and another $100,000 in March to Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” campaign. Both were made as Benderson’s money was getting negotiated into the state budget.
After receiving $125,000 in campaign contributions from Benderson, Scott draped a medal around Benderson’s neck, awarding his family the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award “for individuals that have had a dramatic impact on growing jobs in our state.” SEE ATTACHMENT # 8
|THE PUBLIC IS FED UP WITH SHT COVER UP OF SWEETHEART DEALS FOR BENDERSON|
|The excitement once generated for the rowing park has now turned into valid criticism of the no-bid $19.5 million contract granted to Benderson in January of 2011 and the millions more in public money that the Sarasota County Commissioners and other politicians have stuffed into Benderson’s pockets.
t’s way past time for this Randy Benderson Scam to be exposed for what it is. It’s way past time for the Sarasota Herald Tribune to end covering up this project, which is now bordering on the criminal.
This $19.5 million dollar so-called Public/Private Partnership with Sarasota County and Benderson, along with the $millions$ from other public agencies to promote this Benderson Project in order to enhance Benderson’s other the projects surrounding his “Scam on the lake” needs a criminal investigation.