Visit Sarasota County has unveiled the new location of its visitor’s center.
The new space at 14 Lemon Ave. is smaller than its old place in the historical Chidsey Library, said Stephanie Grosskreutz, managing director of Visit Sarasota.
“It’s not about how much space you have, it’s about the information you provide,” she said.
The organization is hoping the new location will be more accessible to hotel guests and visitors downtown. Its lease at its current location ends Dec. 1, and it hopes to be up and running in the Lemon Avenue location by Thanksgiving, Grosskreutz said.
The Chidsey center will close Nov. 1.
It’s not a permanent solution – Visit Sarasota wants to try it out for a year and gauge what the needs of the visitors downtown are, Grosskreutz said. Other businesses, who are excited for the presence of the center downtown, have suggested the organization needs a large welcome center in that area, she said.
The space is being donated by Busch Isaac, president of Isaac’s Group, and it’s about 600 square feet. That’s a 3,400-square-foot loss, but Visit Sarasota is excited to get out of its old building at 701 N. Tamiami Trail.
“It’s tired, it doesn’t show us off,” Grosskreutz said of the Chidsey building. Its location and struggle to get adequate signage to direct traffic has been a source of frustration for the organization for a while, she said.
The organization is making a bigger effort to be proactive, Grosskreutz said. It has begun to produce its own brochures and pamplets to highlight multiple venues, for example a display about the various theaters and performing arts spots instead of one just about the opera, she said.
Showcasing Sarasota County can be more challenging than other cities, Grosskreutz said. As a tourist, she said she always goes to the visitor’s center to see how other cities brand their attractions. Most places are known for one or two things so it’s easier, she said.
“We’re known for so many things,” she said.
Visit Sarasota will also staff a small location at University Town Center when it opens, which will be connected with the mall's customer service center. Grosskreutz said 14 million people are projected to visit the new mall, both locals and visitors.
The organization has a five-year lease for the mall location.