It was clear from the start — this was no empty exercise.
Larry Fineberg, Downtown Improvement District chairman, said the DID will give strong consideration to supporting, and even funding, a project idea that comes from the Oct. 8 to Oct. 9 SemCon 2010 conference.
SemCon was designed to promote the Downtown Sarasota Historic District and help the DID receive input on what improvements the public wants to see downtown.
The two-day event included trolley tours of downtown, presentations from experts in architecture, historic districts, public transportation and more.
On Saturday, more than 100 attendees separated into nine different groups to come up with a vision for downtown. They were told to imagine they had been away from Sarasota for 20 years and think of the changes they’d like to see when they returned.
Twenty-five architects and designers volunteered their time to help create drawings for each of the groups.
Each table focused on one aspect of downtown, including the historic district, public transportation, the bayfront, connecting Main Street to the bayfront, the farmers market, a performance place, pedestrian traffic, a hotel or conference center and a central plaza/town square/information center. (See box, page 2A.)
The nine concept designs will soon be put on display at City Hall and in a to-be-determined downtown storefront, so the public can view them.
The DID will then hold a public meeting within the next few weeks in which they will field thoughts and questions from residents and business owners.
If they like what they see, DID board members could fund one of the suggested projects and ask the City Commission to approve it.
“This is going to be very useful in planning the future of the Downtown Improvement District,” said DID board member Pat Westerhouse.
SemCon Project Ideas
Conference attendees got to vote on which areas of improvement they most wanted to see completed. They follow, ranked from first to last.
1. Roundabout at Main Street
and U.S. 41
• Enhanced pedestrian comfort
• Food and retail merchants along
• Bike and running trails on bayfront
• Separate vehicle, bike and pedestrian traffic for safety
2. Hotel/conference center
• Location near intersection of First Street and U.S. 41
• Possible locations include next to Palm Avenue parking garage, vacant land at U.S. 41 and John Ringling Causeway and the Selby Library parking lot
3. Public transportation
• One circulator to run length of Main Street
• Second circulator to run from Van Wezel to Selby Gardens
• Periodic closure of Main Street for pedestrian- and circulator-only events
• Larger transportation center to be multi-modal
• U.S. 41 on bayfront to be a pedestrian boulevard
4. Central plaza/town square/info center
• Community gathering place
• Tourist/resident information center
• Marketing location for arts organizations
• Children’s playground
• Open arcade for market or vendors
5 (tie). Historic district
• Provide incentives for preserving historic buildings
• Enhance district with improvements such as bricking streets, wayfinding signs and street furniture
5 (tie). Pedestrian streets/traffic flow
• Maximize sidewalk space
• Increase shade
• Increase lighting
• Integrate public art in pedestrian places
7. Farmers market
• Create a permanent, all-weather shelter for the market
• Possible three-story facility for the market, with parking garage
• Add Lemon Avenue parking at Whole Foods and State Street
8. Better Bayfront Park
• Build an amphitheatre
• Create a water-taxi hub
• Improved restrooms
• Install ponds for fountains or children’s entertainment
• Complete the mooring field
9. Performance place
• Create a signature outdoor facility
• Take advantage of city’s cultural assets
• Coordinate stage use with other events, such as the holiday parade
• Close Central Avenue along Five Points Park
Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].