SUN CITY CENTER – Change is in the wind for one of this community’s oldest commercial landmarks.
Attempted sale by auction last week of the closed automotive service station in the northwest corner of Pebble Beach Boulevard and S.R. 674 has not yet produced a signed deal, but the willing seller is entertaining all offers over $500,000 from able buyers. And that entertaining outlook soon could become hard negotiation.
The site at 702 North Pebble Beach consists of an 1,800- square-foot concrete block structure with two bays and paved tarmac with pumping islands over underground tanks on six tenths of an acre, according to Earl Williams, an auction manger with Higginbotham Auctioneers in Lakeland. The “well attended” auction with lively bidding was conducted on Wednesday, November 17, by Marty Higginbotham, company founder, Williams added.
For many Sun City Center area residents, though, the old filling station is something more than real estate flyer stats. For 45 years – before it was shuttered in 2008 – the facility was both a standard landmark and a prized convenience in a growing community.
Among the very first business sites and ideally located at the community’s Pebble Beach Boulevard gateway, the service station was built in 1963. The new retirement center – then a cutting edge concept being implemented by developer Del Webb fresh from success in Arizona – was beginning to spring from the former sprawling cattle range abutting the north side of a two-lane roadway. On the south side of what would become Sun City Center Boulevard was nothing but the cleared grassy strip which served as landing site for the Webb corporation plane.
S.R. 674, in front of the new service station and barely more than a paved track, still was considered by longtime locals as the connector linking Wimauma and phosphate mines to the east with quiet, village-like Ruskin and Tampa Bay fishing to the west. Interstate 75 was not yet a gleam in the eyes of state transportation engineers. U.S. Highways 301 and 41 were more than adequate north-south routes.
For several years, the little automotive service center would share the two opposing gateway corners with the imposing Kings Inn, a locally popular restaurant designed with a striking Tudor exterior appropriately matched by an interior of dark woods and soft leather. It would see replacement of the burned Kings Inn with another restaurant and motel on the opposite corner, this one dubbed the SCC Inn and given a light tropical flavor with muted pastels. It even would see a Walgreen’s pharmacy rise where once the dining rooms stood.
As the community grew, commercial activity followed with expansion of the aging strip plaza, development on the southwest and southeast corners of the Pebble Beach-S.R. 674 intersection, arrival of a medical facility first a satellite of Bradenton’s Blake Memorial Hospital, along with a mushrooming medical services complex including numerous assisted living facilities.
All the while, the service station met the gas, oil, and repair needs of residents, visitors and drivers-by. A place where attendants once checked customers’ oil levels and wiped windshields free of charge without being asked, the station underwent several brand changes over the years. Marilyn Balkany, who settled in SCC during the mid 1980s, recalls it as a Texaco station where she could gas up quickly and easily. It also bore the Amoco signature and carried the BP brand when it was closed.
Currently held by a corporation named in county records as GC Partners LLC, the structural components and the site are valued for taxing purposes at $405,000. The property last changed hands in a sales transaction during 2005 – a period of rapidly inflating values – when it apparently was sold for $950,000, according to Tim Wilmath in the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s office. Prior to that transaction, the property sold in 1995 – 10 years earlier – for a reported $375,000, Wilmath added.
Williams declined to pinpoint the highest bid received at the auction, stating only that the seller would not accept any of the bids made. However, he added it is not unusual for offers to be made following an auction, that “feelers are out” and that with increasing credit opportunities a deal for the service station site could be reached in the foreseeable future. The auction manager also would not name a bottom line figure acceptable to the seller but indicated that a solid offer in the $500,000 neighborhood could bring all interested parties to the table.
Copyright 2010 Melody Jameson