Sarasota residents opposed to a proposed gallery at 1400 Main St. showed up in force at Monday's City Commission meeting. They spoke to many issues they had with the gallery, but all coalesced around one message: the gallery would not provide a public benefit to the city.
The commission eventually agreed, denying the application for a major encroachment agreement in a 3-2 vote.
Chris Brown, who purchased the building at 1400 Main Street in May, was unable to attend Monday's meeting. Chris Gallagher, the architect of the two-story gallery deck that would extend almost 9 feet out over the public right-of-way, spoke in support of the design.
Gallagher cited the architecture book "A Pattern Language," which advocates for galleries in public space, as evidence that the proposed restaurant design would offer a public benefit. For a major encroachment agreement to be approved, the commission had to find it provided for a public benefit.
Twenty-one members of the public signed up to speak regarding the proposal, which would have allowed for downtown's first gallery. After nearly an hour of commentary, only one person offered her support for the project. Their complaints were varied: Concerns included the architectural character of the building failing to mesh with the rest of downtown; the impact of the gallery on the adjacent sidewalks and roundabout; and the potential noise generated by the planned restaurant.
Several argued that the only person that would benefit from the proposal would be Brown, as 78 seats could be placed on the outdoor gallery deck.
Gallagher disputed several of the claims — he said he suggested the design to Brown, so it wasn’t just a land grab — but the commission wasn’t swayed.
“I think 78 tables on the gallery is such a great private benefit, but not a real public benefit,” Commissioner Susan Chapman said. “Given this does not really fit or serve the existing public realm, I think it's appropriate to deny it.”
Mayor Shannon Snyder and Commissioner Paul Caragiulo were the two dissenting votes. While Caragiulo didn’t want to deny the proposal outright, he was concerned about the lack of detail in the proposal and said he wouldn’t have supported the encroachment agreement as-is.
Still, he thought a collaborative design process between Brown and the city could produce a more favorable outcome — even if it meant an encroachment — than letting Brown produce a design without city input.
“I'm concerned with what the outcome might be provided they do build out to their property line,” Caragiulo said.
Also at Monday’s commission meeting:
• The city’s Urban Design Studio presented a series of design proposals for the State Street Garage, including one that featured a two-story arcade. City Attorney Robert Fournier recommended the commission delay any conversation regarding the garage design until the next meeting, so he has an opportunity to speak with representatives from Pineapple Square. A lease agreement with Pineapple Square requires the city to complete the garage by February 2015; Fournier said he would clarify some questions about that contract before the Oct. 21 meeting.
• Chapman and Vice Mayor Willie Shaw expressed their opposition to locating a Sarasota County homeless facility within the city limits. Shaw was emphatic that he would not support a shelter in District 1, the north Sarasota district he represents. Chapman was concerned about the criteria that Robert Marbut, the homelessness consultant hired by the county and city, selected to determine the location of a homeless center. Chapman said the criteria, which include a proximity to existing service centers and the county jail, have almost made it a foregone conclusion his recommendation will be to build in the city, but that other facilities he’s helped construct have been built outside of an urban core.
• Commissioners directed staff to continue to negotiate an agreement that would reestablish the city's lease of a Burns Square parking lot, located at Orange Avenue and Laurel Street. The lot would cost $1,800 per month to lease; the city would establish an employee parking permit system within the lot to help cover some expenses.
Contact David Conway at email@example.com.