At a workshop last month, commissioners tentatively agreed to a list of six downtown projects including a Main Street streetscape project that will transform Main Street from Gulfstream Avenue to Osprey Avenue.
Construction improvements to Main Street could start as early as this summer if the Sarasota City Commission officially approves the list at a special meeting planned later this month.
On Tuesday, April 24, the commission reached a consensus to tentatively move forward with plans to help the DID pay for its $1.9 million Main Street project through a $1.5 million internal loan that is repayable to the city at a rate of 3.5% over a 15-year term.
The DID has already approved the $1.9 million Main Street project and is willing to pay for almost half of the project with its own dollars.
City Finance Director Chris Lyons called the internal loan “a win-win.”
“It would be a win-win because the city gets money on the interest rates,” Lyons said. “In essence, we’re setting aside money out of our investments we normally would earn 1% on and get a 3.5% rate of return instead.”
DID Operations Manager John Moran said if the loan is approved by commissioners later this month, work could begin this summer on the project. That work would include Main Street improvements, mostly traffic calming bulb-outs, from the Five Points roundabout to Orange Avenue. A North Palm Avenue streetscape project could also begin this summer.
Then, in summer 2013, the largest renovation and construction of Main Street would begin. Plans call for bricking the sidewalks, creating additional bulb-outs and adding parallel parking to the north side of the street from Gulfstream Avenue to the Five Points roundabout. Improvements to Main Street would fill in the gaps up to Osprey Avenue.
Vice Mayor Terry Turner said Lyons’ proposal makes him more comfortable than the city taking on “more outside bond debt.”
“This way, the city controls how they collect the money,” Turner said.
What’s not funded as part of the Main Street project at this time, however, is $1.3 million worth of 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 projects, which will be reviewed again May 21 and must come before the Community Redevelopment Agency, include funding for a roundabout at Main Street and Orange Avenue, a First Street enhancement project from U.S. 41 to Pineapple Avenue and a North Palm Avenue streetscape project
Those projects will be financed through tax-increment financing (TIF) dollars if approved.
The following projects will be financed through tax-increment financing (TIF) dollars if approved by the Sarasota City Commission later this month:
• $224,000 for a North Palm Avenue streetscape project (The DID will pay $10,000 additional dollars for this project)
• $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