In the seven months since Sarasota embarked on a series of four projects that would alter downtown’s streetscape, the vision of its creators is becoming realized. With several construction projects entering their final phases this month, downtown Sarasota’s facelift is nearly complete.
A roundabout, parking garage, park and intersection improvements, as well as new landscaping, are already making their mark around town.
Downtown’s transformation is taking shape, and, so far, it’s all being done on schedule.
Five Points roundabout
Crews completed the milling and repaving this week around downtown Sarasota’s brand-new centerpiece.
Construction on the Five Points roundabout began July 5. The roads leading to and from the roundabout, Main Street, Pineapple Avenue and Central Avenue, opened Aug. 11 — nearly a month ahead of schedule.
Mary Ellen Maurer, the city’s project coordinator, said dry weather and a financial incentive provided to contractor Jon F. Swift Inc. helped speed up the project.
The company earned $5,000 for each day the project was completed ahead of schedule.
Maurer said early reviews from city residents have been mostly positive, with both drivers and pedestrians alike saying the intersection is much easier to navigate now.
Selby Five Points Park
Downtown’s signature park is in the beginning stages of its makeover. A green safety screen placed around the park’s perimeter late last month hides the work taking place.
But, inside the screening, workers are busy regrading the park, so it begins and ends at sidewalk level.
The Downtown Improvement District, which is funding the improvements, wanted to remove the concrete curb surrounding Selby Five Points Park, because it believed the curbing created a psychological barrier, which kept people from entering.
When work is complete next month, the new features will include new grass and landscaping, a paved walking path that bisects the park, a performance stage and improved lighting.
DID board members and downtown business owners are hoping the improvements will bring more activity to the park and to downtown in general.
Palm Avenue parking garage
The formation of the top floor of the city’s new parking garage is fully under way. Passersby, who have been seeing a vacant lot with a few cars parked in it, now see a hulking structure that towers over North Palm Avenue.
Construction began April 1, and when it’s complete before Christmas, about 740 parking spaces will be available on six levels.
City commissioners have yet to decide whether those spaces will be free for an initial trial period to get people used to parking in the garage.
On the ground floor, the city is trying to lease or sell 12,000 square feet of retail space.
The final design will look less like a parking garage and more like a modern sculpture. Architectural firm Jonathan Parks Architect has designed white sail-like features to cover the front of the garage.
Main and Palm intersection improvements
One of the more attractive and useful improvements downtown is the construction of the bulbouts at Main Street and Palm Avenue.
More area was added to each of the intersection’s four corners, with brick planters imbedded in them.
The result is more outdoor dining space for Café Epicure and Media on Main, as well as a shorter trip for pedestrians from one side of the street to the other.
Downtown resident John Moran spoke to the Downtown Improvement District Nov. 2 about the intersection improvements.
He said although they looked good, he lamented the fact that there was little color in the plant beds.
Due to a lack of maintenance funds, the city could not commit to the kind of maintenance colorful flowers would need, so plants had to be primarily green.
Contact Robin Roy at r[email protected].