Realizing the City Commission would not agree to pay for most of the $4.6 million it was seeking for Main Street improvements, the Downtown Improvement District board reduced the cost of the project and agreed to pay 100% of the expense for the work within its boundaries.
That means the DID directors agreed, in principle, to pay $1.91 million for Main Street improvements from Bayfront Avenue to Osprey Avenue, including those on Main Street up to Orange Avenue and roughly half of those proposed from Orange Avenue to Osprey Avenue.
To afford the project, the DID will have to pay off a bond, meaning DID stakeholders will continue to be assessed an extra 2 mills for the next 20 years. The DID is sending out a letter this week to its stakeholders, detailing the Jan. 25 discussion and requesting their input before the board makes final decisions during its Feb. 7 meeting.
Senior city planner Steve Stancel told the DID board Tuesday that this latest offer would be much easier to sell to the City Commission.
“This is a better proposal and gives you a better opportunity to get projects approved and funded,” Stancel said.
DID Operations Manager John Moran said he worked with city staff and project consultants for days to retool the numbers and lower the costs.
“Our previous offer left the impression we weren’t stepping up to the plate and paying a sufficient share,” Moran said.
What will not be funded at this time, it appears, are upgrades to the eastern half of Main Street, from Orange Avenue to Osprey Avenue, and all improvements from Osprey Avenue to U.S. 301. The estimated cost of that work is $1.3 million.
The DID board hopes the Community Redevelopment Agency will approve funding the following downtown projects instead:
• $224,000 for a North Palm Avenue streetscape project (The DID will pay an extra $10,000 for this work.);
• $1.3 million for a First Street enhancement project, from Pineapple Avenue to U.S. 41;
• $1 million for a roundabout at the intersection of Main Street and Orange Avenue.
The City Commission, acting as the CRA, will meet at 3 p.m. Thursday at City Hall to review the proposals and decide whether to fund the projects as proposed.
Altogether, the DID and the CRA would have to agree to spend $4,434,000, with the DID paying 43% of the projects’ costs and the CRA spending 57% of its available dollars.
Moran told the Sarasota Observer Wednesday the DID board hopes the CRA and the Sarasota City Commission will agree to pay for the above projects out of a $2.7 million revitalization fund it has available for such undertakings downtown.
“A further hope of the DID is that the transformational nature of the improvements done to Main Street, with DID dollars, will incentivize those on Main Street, outside of DID boundaries, to desire to be in the DID and receive the same type of benefits all the way to U.S. 301,” Moran said.
If approved, the Main Street renovations would consist of a widened brick sidewalk from Bayfront Avenue to the Five Points roundabout, along with parallel parking on the north side of the road and enhanced landscaping and bulbouts. From the Five Points roundabout to Orange Avenue, major bulbout improvements and enhanced lighting are planned.
No streets would be bricked, and angled parking would be retained, from the Five Points roundabout eastward.
Merchants’ feedback over the past two months led the DID to scale back dramatically a project that originally included extensive bricking of streets and sidewalks, resulting in significant parking-space reductions, which merchants say would have destroyed their businesses and cost upward of $14 million.
It would have cost the DID $2.9 million to perform the brick street work in the historic district and refurbish utilities under the road from Bayfront Drive to the Five Points roundabout. Work on that stretch would have taken nine months to complete, consultants said.