Digital Domain studio purchase in Tradition falls through

Port St. Lucie's sale of the former Digital Domain studio in Tradition fell through, Councilwoman Michelle Berger confirmed Friday.

"We should be receiving a letter of termination from the buyer about the sale, "Berger said.

Vero Beach resident Richard Friedberg offered the city $14 million for the building the city issued $39.9 million in bonds.

It is unknown why the sale fell through.

Interim City Manager Jeff Bremer could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

The buyer of the former Digital Domain studio in Tradition had been expected to finalize the purchase of the property today, ending the city's 11-month saga to get rid of one of its largest financial burdens.

City Council approved a sale contract with Vero Beach resident Richard Friedberg in July and Friedberg spent the past four months inspecting the building.

He said he had wanted to open an art museum and had been talking to nationally known venues that might be interested in setting up shop in Port St. Lucie.

Port St. Lucie started looking for a buyer for the studio earlier this year. Digital Domain Media Group filed for bankruptcy in September 2012 and left the city on the hook for debt service payments for $39.9 million issued in bonds. About $24 million of that money went toward the design and construction of the studio.

Finding a buyer for the building — even selling it for a loss at $14 million — is crucial, officials said, because it helps reduce the city's annual debt payments.

Payments of about $3.4 million come out of the city's operating fund — money that normally pays for staff salaries, parks and police.

By selling the building and refinancing its debt, those payments would drop to $1.5 million annually. The city expects to be paying off the debt for the next three decades.

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