Construction of a $1.9 million Main Street improvement project could start as early as this summer.
“We’re shooting for construction beginning next summer (2013),” said Sarasota City Planner Steve Stancel.
Tom Mannausa, who owns property along 150 feet of Main Street and is a member of the Downtown Improvement District, said the project brings Sarasota a little closer to becoming a more walkable city.
“If you go to Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, (Russia), they have this walking element of brick streets and sidewalks,” said Mannausa, speaking as a property owner and developer.
The largest phase of work would replace diagonal parking spaces on the north side of lower Main Street, from Gulfstream Avenue to Five Points Park, with parallel spaces, which would free up more space for sidewalk expansion. The sidewalk there will gain eight feet of sidewalk space.
Mannausa said he would have preferred to see diagonal parking, instead of parallel parking spaces, so close to the Five Points roundabout, as called for in current plans.
But, overall, Mannausa said the project will elevate downtown to the pedestrian-friendly level of other cities he admires.
“When I was in Helsinki, cranes were building these modern buildings,” Mannausa said. “While they are modernizing, they take brick and cobblestone pieces, upgrade the water and sewer underneath and put the brick components back.”
The project encompasses three phases of improvements — of which the first could begin this fall or late spring.
Overall, 12 parking spaces will be removed to add wider sidewalks on Main Street.
The original proposal called for brick pavers on both Main Street and the sidewalks from Bayfront Drive to Orange Avenue’s historic district, along with converting angled parking to parallel parking. But, as a compromise with business owners who didn’t want to see parking disappear, the plan to change parking on the south side of Main Street was scrapped. Merchants also spoke out against the brick pavers, so that portion of the project was also removed from the plans.