The Chidsey Building is tucked between Art Center Sarasota and the Sarasota Garden Club, just south of the Municipal Auditorium. It's easy to miss while driving down the North Trail, but holds an important tool for local tourism: the Official Visitors Center.
The center's location at 701 N. Tamiami Trail has been a source of frustration for Visit Sarasota County, the regional tourism promotion agency, prompting the organization to issue a notice of intent to end a sub-lease agreement with Sarasota County for the building, which the city of Sarasota owns. With the termination, the sub-lease is set to expire Dec. 12.
The center includes a gift shop and several historical exhibits, as well as volunteers charged with helping tourists find things to do, places to eat and rooms to stay in Sarasota.
"I apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause, but I don’t think we’ve been shy about our intentions to find a new home for the visitors center," said Visit Sarasota County Managing Director Stephanie Grosskreutz in a May 12 email to the city.
Visit Sarasota County had been paying $20,000 per year for the contract, and maintaining the landscaping and janitorial services for the building, which also houses the Sarasota County History Center, according to a five-year sub-lease extension signed last year. The county also extended its lease with the city in 2013 for an additional five years with the same termination clause.
County Historical Resources Manager Lorrie Muldowney and Library System Director Sarabeth Kalajian intend to discuss further uses for the building with county administration, according to email records.
"We have struggled with the city of Sarasota for proper signage at the location since August 2009 and can no longer continue to operate a visitor information center in a location that is not only difficult to access, in desperate need of upgrades to sidewalks and facilities, but with no proper signage other than (Florida Department of Transportation) signposts," wrote Visit Sarasota County President Virginia Haley in a letter to the city. "Visitors simply cannot find us."