The Sarasota region is faced with a unique confluence of timing and opportunity. The former Quay site has been purchased by GreenPointe Holdings, LLC with new development plans in the wings. The former G.WIZ building stands empty, awaiting a future use. The City of Sarasota was beginning to re-examine the 2007 Cultural District Master Plan that encompasses the 42 acres from Boulevard of the Arts to Payne Terminal surrounding the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Finally, parcels of land on the east side of Tamiami Trail that were assembled for the former Proscenium project are now being marketed. These combined properties compose almost 75 acres.
When will Sarasota ever see multiple properties in play like this in its lifetime again? How will decisions made about the future of our bayfront affect future generations?
No other planning opportunities for a metro-downtown waterfront location of this large a scale exist anywhere else in Florida at this time.
Community and civic leaders took action in late 2013. They started a dialogue about creating a common vision for the future, and working collectively to form a roadmap for the next phase of the Bayfront. The goal was to create consensus among community and neighborhood leaders about what the future could be for this significant community asset. A vision statement was created to allow for broad community support and input: “We support the creation of a long-term master plan for the Sarasota bayfront area that will establish a cultural and economic legacy for the region while ensuring open, public access to the bayfront.”
This initiative is called Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 for two reasons. First, it is hoped that by the year 2020 Sarasota could see significant results and second, it will take focused 20:20 clear vision to see this through.
More than 45 arts, neighborhood, foundation and business groups have had their boards unanimously vote to support a common vision statement. The full list of those organizations can be found at the end of this article. The level of commitment and support so far for the development of a common vision and partnership within the City of Sarasota is unprecedented in at least 30 years.
In October 2014, Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 entered the broad-based outreach phase of the project. They launched this website, Twitter feed and Facebook page, which now is over 2,200 “likes” and counting. Since this effort began, there have been more than 145 meetings, 6 community forums with a total of 2,700 participants and received 200 pages of comments and 170 ideas on post-it notes. Many more community outreach meetings and presentations are anticipated in the coming year.
The Sarasota City Commission held a workshop to review draft Implementation Principles that rose up from the extensive community engagement. Then in February 2015, the Sarasota City Commission approved the Vision and supporting Implementation Principles for the redevelopment of the Bayfront.
Why are the Implementation Principles so important? Because they will be the important foundation, serving as our community’s guidepost for the years of redevelopment decisions to come. This is a proven way to guide the community through complex decisions that will ultimately lead to success for current and future generations.
With the recommendation of Sarasota Bayfront 20:20, the City Commission is also forming an internal Technical Working Group to develop a common technical knowledge base of the site. Their list of duties will include providing objective details on potential use, such as density and height constraints, as well as details on current leases and even exploring the implications of the newly drawn FEMA maps. The Technical Report was completed in September 2015.
In addition, the Van Wezel Foundation and the Sarasota Orchestra board are now fully engaged in the facility assessment process in order to map out future needs. The Van Wezel Foundation has completed their process and the Sarasota Orchestra is almost complete.
Volunteer chairman Michael Klauber has challenged the community stakeholders with an ambitious goal of having a ground break on the City’s 42 acres by December 2017.
Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 is now entering Phase III Partnership: Master Planning in order to reach its goal. This phase will involve site planning, facility planning, outreach and fundraising.
Updated November 17, 2015