Proponents of a plan to create a new vision for the bayfront property surrounding the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall received praise at today’s City Commission meeting, but may not have gotten what they were ultimately looking for from commissioners.
Led by Visit Sarasota County, a group of local organizations is beginning a push to create a new master plan for the city-owned Van Wezel and GWIZ properties, as well as adjoining private properties such as the former Quay site. At the same time, the city has expressed an interest in revisiting its 2007 Cultural Park Concept Plan, a blueprint for the city-owned land that was quickly shelved due to the worsening economic climate.
The group has already secured private funding to bring in a consultant to oversee the earliest stages of community conversations regarding what people would like to see developed on that land. Visit Sarasota County Board of Directors chairman Michael Klauber was hoping to get a seal of approval from the commission at today’s meeting, during which staff was scheduled to provide an update and seek direction regarding the Cultural Park Concept Plan.
After Klauber provided an overview of his group’s aims, commissioners were quick to offer their support for the thrust of the vision presented. Commissioner Paul Caragiulo said an outwardly led community effort — with the government facilitating where it could — was the most effective route to achieving the city’s goals for the bayfront property.
“I hope you all keep doing what you're doing, because I think you're the ones that can get it done,” Caragiulo said.
Although the commission was excited by the newly developing vision plan, it was not as excited by the pace at which it was moving. Several commissioners stated it was too early to get a consultant involved in the process, and that there was no need for the city to participate in the conversation at this point in time.
Instead, the commission voted to take no action regarding the Cultural Park Concept Plan for at least 120 days in hopes that the ownership of adjacent properties would clear up by then. Mayor Shannon Snyder said it was important to be able to communicate with the eventual developer of the Quay property, so that the city’s plans weren’t affected by an unexpected project.
“If we move forward now, we're going to end up spending good money after bad,” Snyder said.
As approved in 2007, the Cultural Park Concept Plan called for a five-phase, 15-year project along the bayfront that would create multiple new cultural and mixed-use developments, a bayfront park, a pier and other public accommodations. The momentum behind the plan quickly dissipated in spring 2008 due to the recession.
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