Circle improvements on hold pending vote landowners' extension decision

 

Circle improvements on hold pending vote landowners' extension decision

 

Date: August 21, 2013
by: Kurt Schultheis | Managing Editor

 
 

 

The St. Armands Business Improvement District (BID) is essentially in limbo until it receives ballots back that will either approve or disapprove of a 10-year extension for the taxing district.

“Summer meetings are already slower than usual, but we’re really not doing much of anything right now until the referendum is approved,” said Marty Rappaport, chairman and organizer of the BID, a taxing district that St. Armands Circle property owners voted to create to finance improvements on the Circle. “We’re waiting on our plans until we know those plans are supported through the 10-year extension.”

Those plans include a future parking garage that BID board members believe is the last piece of the puzzle for a bustling shopping district with parking woes.

The BID has already agreed to fund a $50,000 St. Armands parking feasibility study that the Sarasota City Commission supports.

The study will concentrate on two parcels — one at the corner of Fillmore and Monroe drives, on the south end of the Circle, and the other on a parcel on North Adams Drive behind the Columbia Restaurant.

If plans for a garage advance, the BID, along with the city, would co-fund the cost of the parking garage, Rappaport said.

Rappaport has pointed to an air of compromise between commercial property owners and merchants, who say a lack of parking spaces has been hurting business, and St. Armands Key residents, who are concerned about the impacts of a multi-level parking structure. 

Some residents want to see at least two other improvements — buried powerlines and a newly landscaped median on John Ringling Boulevard heading onto the Circle from Sarasota — also completed if the city moves ahead with the parking structure. 

St. Armands homeowners would like to see both improvements completed simultaneously when a garage is built.

The biggest unknown for the construction of a parking garage, though, is funding. And the BID needs to be extended to be a source of funding for the project.

“I think the referendum will be approved,” Rapport said. “All we have to do now is wait.

The BID’s second attempt at a voter referendum began last week after ballots were mailed to Circle landowners Aug. 9. Ballots must be returned to Sarasota City Hall by Sept. 16, and the ballots will be counted Sept. 17.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at kschultheis@yourobserver.com.



MAKING AN IMPACT

The St. Armands Business Improvement District (BID) has made the following improvements to St. Armands Circle during the past 10 years:

• New street lighting with outdoor-music provisions

• New and repaired sidewalks

• Installation of 122 Bose outdoor speakers for music and emergency public-address system

• Funded a city-approved St. Armands Master Plan

• Constructed new neck-out medians and brick-paved crosswalks

• Donated John Ringling statue

• Partnered with city to provide up lighting and path lights in center park

• Partnered with city to obtain an easement for angled parking

• Partnered with city to provide needed benches and trash containers

• Partnered with city to remove unsightly paper racks and replace with new models

• Sponsored a Circle study that a recognized planner presented to merchants

• Renovated all four medians with a park-like setting that provided curbs, sidewalks, sitting areas, new lighting and enhanced landscaping

• Participated in workshops to create stormwater improvements to correct Circle street flooding

• Provided financial assistance for the installation of Christmas decorations

 

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