A new beautification effort could soon blossom in the heart of the city, as the Downtown Improvement District considers a project to install flower baskets on city light poles.
The project’s origins date back more than a year, when Operations Manager John Moran showed the DID board a picture of flower baskets in Cape May, N.J. The group believed the baskets, which wrapped around the light poles rather than hanging down from them, were a good fit for the gusty climates of downtown Sarasota.
Other projects received more attention from the board, but the flower basket possibility was frequently revisited as an intriguing option.
“You can see the dramatic effect they had in Cape May,” Moran said.
With much of the DID budget devoted to paying off the 2013 Main Street streetscape improvement project, the board has had to prioritize cost effectiveness as it examines new opportunities to beautify the downtown district. As a result, the flower basket project has come back into the spotlight, with the board voting to solicit design specifications for baskets so it can receive bids from vendors.
Although cost specifics are still undetermined, estimates project that each wraparound basket, 25 inches in diameter, would cost $870, with an annual maintenance cost of $1,100. A cheaper option would be to purchase smaller 20-inch hanging baskets, which have an estimated cost of $440 per unit and a projected annual maintenance price of $830 each year.
With a potential budget of $50,000 — a number Moran said is purely hypothetical at this point — the DID would be able to purchase 25 wraparound baskets, which would come with an annual maintenance cost of $27,000. The DID could also purchase 40 hanging baskets, with a yearly maintenance budget of $33,000.
The group also discussed the aesthetics of hanging flower baskets and banners on the same light poles. Board members indicated support for alternating between banners and baskets. If the DID wishes to reorganize the light pole adornments, it will have to work with the Downtown Sarasota Alliance, which currently manages the downtown banner program per an agreement with the city.
The board is still undecided on which option it will pursue, should it choose to invest in hanging pole baskets at all. At Tuesday’s meeting, however, multiple DID members offered their preference for the original wraparound design — even if it does come at a price.
“It just looks better,” board member Eileen Hampshire said. “I think we can’t afford not to do it.”
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