Top ULI tasks: Town center, Bayfront Park

 

Top ULI tasks: Town center, Bayfront Park

 

Date: December 18, 2013
by: Robin Hartill | News Editor

 
 

Let’s get to work.

That was the message Town Manager Dave Bullock had for the Urban Land Institute Implementation Advisory Committee after the group discussed its own makeup Tuesday, Dec. 10.

“I wouldn’t spend any time on this, guys,” he said. “Here’s the advice: Get to work.”

The committee got to work and concluded that its top priorities will be to determine how to proceed with a proposed town center, along with Bayfront Park’s future.

Acting Planning Zoning & Building Director Alaina Ray provided committee members with an overview of what town staff has done since a ULI panel made its preliminary recommendations for the town at the end of October.

Town and Sarasota County officials have met to discuss possibilities for Bayfront Park to determine the roles that the town and county could play in its development, funding options and whether they would need an interlocal agreement.

Town staff is also holding discussions with Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) officials to determine what the agency would allow on the FDOT-controlled Gulf of Mexico Drive to improve mobility.

Staffers have also met with property owners on Bay Isles Road to discuss possibilities for a town center and hired Sarasota architect Gary Hoyt, who designed the new Longboat Key Publix, to create two sets of renderings for a town center.

But throughout the meeting, some committee members struggled with an existential question: Why does the committee exist?

“We are struggling with our role,” said Commissioner Jack Duncan, who is on the new nine-member committee after the commission made changes to the committee’s makeup last week. “We’re trying to figure out what this committee is going to do.”

Ray told the group that it was meant to serve as an ideas committee, while town staff will work to determine what can be done.

The committee also wrestled with how to prioritize recommendations, discussing whether the town should first implement one of the simpler recommendations, such as beautification, as a “quick fix,” as several committee members described it, to show the community it was making progress.

But committee member David Novak urged other members to get to the “meat of the matter.”

“The public would have the perception that we picked something easy and for the purposes of PR,” he said of a “quick fix.”

The committee reached consensus, instead, to make establishing a town center its top priority.

Members agreed to discuss with members of the community the features and activities they’d like to see at a proposed cultural/community center in the town center and were scheduled to report their findings at their Dec. 17 meeting.

The committee will also discuss beautification of the entryways to the island.

Contact Robin Hartill at rhartill@yourobserver.com

 

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