Several Downtown Improvement District board members believe they’ve found a way to help ease the group’s money woes: moving the SCAT transfer station at First Street and Lemon Avenue.
The proposal originally came from Downtown Improvement District chairman Ernie Ritz, who said getting the property on the tax rolls would help provide income for the DID. The DID, which assesses a 2 mill tax on all property within its boundaries, has faced a tighter budget after committing future funds to pay for last year’s $1.9 million Main Street improvement project.
DID member Ron Soto, owner of Soto’s Optical and president of the Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association, said he surveyed Main Street businesses to get feedback on the station’s current location. The response he got was overwhelming, he said.
“I was surprised to find out that not one person out of all the merchants said it should stay there,” Soto said. “The reason, they said, is because they felt it created a cluster right there on First Street and Lemon.”
If the transfer station were replaced with a mid-rise development, Ritz and Soto said, the property at First Street and Lemon Avenue could extend the retail experience for people walking through downtown. As a result, they said, overall pedestrian traffic will increase.
That line of thinking helped win over DID board member Mark Kauffman, who preferred the First Street and Lemon Avenue location over a potential Ringling Boulevard and School Avenue site when the station was built in 2002. Now, he said, he believes the bus station doesn’t significantly increase retail activity, and it detracts from the ambiance of the area.
“At the time, I thought the present location was the right one,” Kauffman said. “I've come to the conclusion I was wrong.”
Not everybody was on board with moving the station, however. Downtown Economic Development Coordinator Norm Gollub spoke at Tuesday’s meeting about the value of a centrally-located transfer station, particularly if SCAT activity increases in the future.
“A bus station that has the ability to carry half a million people through downtown should not be located inconveniently,” Gollub said.
Ritz said he was in the process of scheduling a meeting with Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer to get the proposal on the agenda for the County Commission.
For more information about the burgeoning effort to move the SCAT transfer station, pick up a copy of Thursday’s Sarasota Observer.
Contact David Conway at email@example.com.
Currently 2 Responses
- The bus station should never have been built in the downtown location on prime retail/residential real estate. Move the station out of downtown, sell the land to a private developer and reap the profits.
- The present location was chosen by the RIDERS of the bus service as the one that was most convenient for them to access downtown businesses and services. This decision should defer to those who USE the services not to those who just want more money for their coffers
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