At the last City Commission meeting in June, Vice Mayor Susan Chapman wondered if the visioning process surrounding public bayfront land was getting out of control. At the first City Commission meeting in July, the board ensured the city would have a more prominent role in that conversation.
Led by Michael Klauber, Visit Sarasota County Board of Directors chairman, a group of organizations banded together earlier this year under the name Sarasota Bayfront 20:20. Together, the group’s members have worked on developing a community vision for 75 acres of public and privately owned bayfront land surrounding the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. The group seeks to create a project that establishes a cultural and economic legacy for the city while also ensuring public access to the bayfront.
The newly formed group spoke before the commission in March, at which time the city decided to stay out of the fray as Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 continued to gather community support. Since then, the group has brought in a consulting firm from New York to provide guidance regarding how similar public-private park projects have come to fruition.
At Monday’s City Commission meeting, Klauber updated the board on his group’s efforts and made several requests of the city. He asked the commission to endorse Sarasota Bayfront 20:20’s efforts and encourage other interested parties to get involved, to allow city staff to be available to contribute to the group’s work and for the city to schedule a workshop for November to further discuss a vision for the bayfront land.
The city praised the work of Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 and directed city staff to work with the group. Although the reception was largely positive, some commissioners indicated an interest in the city having more control over the direction of the visioning process.
“Certainly given that this is our land — the largest section — I think it’s important the city take a more active role in this process,” Chapman said.
There was also a hesitance to move as quickly as the Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 leaders desired, with no definitive date set for a workshop. Commissioner Shannon Snyder said that, before the conversation regarding the bayfront land moved forward, he wanted to see the ownership situation at the former Quay property settled. That land is included in the Bayfront 20:20 master plan, but Snyder indicated a more solid grasp on what would develop there was necessary before moving on to a plan for the waterfront.
“I don’t want to be rushed into anything, because I think the Quay property is the lynchpin to get started,” Snyder said.
Klauber said that the Quay property was not essential for the group’s vision, but that he was hopeful the future owner would see an opportunity in linking up with the larger plan for the bayfront land.
“Because of the new conversation, we’re hoping there is renewed interest in people getting involved that would like to be part of the bigger picture,” Klauber said.
For now, Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 will continue to look toward broadening its base of support so that a set of community values may be established by the time a city workshop occurs. The city, now a part of a larger conversation, will have the opportunity to guide the process before it returns to the commission again.
“I don’t want to be at a point of saying no at the end,” Chapman said. “I want to say yes.”
Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 seeks supporters
In the bag
Organizations that have adopted the Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 vision statement:
Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County
Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations
Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County
The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce
Gulf Coast Community Foundation
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
North Trail Redevelopment Partnership
The Players Theatre
Rosemary Neighborhood Association
St. Armands Business Improvement District
Van Wezel Foundation
Visit Sarasota County
Organizations that have received or are scheduled to receive a presentation from Sarasota Bayfront 20:20:
Art Center Sarasota
Asolo Repertory Theatre
Community Foundation of Sarasota County
Downtown Sarasota Alliance
Hyatt Regency, Sarasota
The Patterson Foundation
Ringling College of Art and Design
Sarasota Bay Estuary Program
Sarasota Lawn Bowling Club
U.S. Masters Swimming
Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
Contact David Conway at [email protected]