The Lift Station 87 project continues to evolve in the face of new information, as the City Commission directed the engineering firm in charge of construction to create an above-ground facility inside Luke Wood Park.
The new directive is a significant departure from the previous plans for the lift station, which had been largely completed before the new engineering firm discovered significant design issues. Originally, the facility was intended to be almost entirely housed underground, with a small structure visible in Luke Wood Park for employee access. On Monday, however, the commission unanimously instructed engineering firm McKim and Creed to move forward with a design that could withstand a Category 3 hurricane.
Although the specifics are still undetermined, that means at least one thing: A much taller above-ground facility will have to be constructed as part of the project. Conceptual design plans presented by McKim and Creed showed a building that extended 34 feet above the ground, with a footprint of 6,000 feet. The structure will have an increased vertical presence, but the new footprint represents a reduction from the current total of 13,000 square feet. The design elements of the new structure will be finalized going forward.
“We’ll be looking at options regarding the height and footprint of Lift Station 87,” Utilities Director Mitt Tidwell said in a press release. “… Going above-ground is vital, though, since this facility handles nearly one-third of the city’s wastewater.”
The city plans to hold community workshops to get input on the look of the facility. In its presentation to the commission, McKim and Creed presented two options for the design. The first option would give the building a lower profile, blending into the background of the park and masking it with landscaping. The second option would create a high profile, dominant structure.
The engineering team will work with the city’s Urban Design Studio on the project. McKim and Creed project manager Robert Garland said the Urban Design Studio suggested a bolder building that would catch the eye of passersby. Commissioners agreed, pushing for a high-quality design that could serve as an asset to the city. Commissioner Susan Chapman spoke with Principal Urban Designer Andrew Georgiadis regarding the building, and said the Urban Design Studio felt the building could add to what has historically been an underutilized park.
"One of the goals of the design of the lift station would be to frame the park, to make it a statement that it is a park," Chapman said.
Still, residents will get their chance to sound off on the look of the structure.
“We’ve heard a lot of citizen concern for the look of Luke Wood Park,” Tidwell said. “We want to show the residents what an above-ground structure might look like, how it can be designed to Sarasota standards, answer questions and receive input.”
Already, residents near the lift station site have voiced their concerns about the change in plans. Central Park II condominium president Jim Carroll wrote an email to city staff, asking for a justification for the modifications despite earlier assurances from the city regarding a minimal design. Central Park II resident David Coe said that the design changes represented a broken promise on the behalf of the city.
“If this report is true, then all the promises made to residents of Central Parks 1 and 2 that we would finally have a building with minimal impact and pleasing appearance are meaningless,” Coe wrote in an email. “This matter needs immediate attention from the responsible parties to ensure that yet another fiasco is not growing on the battered ground that was Luke Wood Park.”
The project has seen several issues arise over its lifespan — including lengthy delays, the failure of an earlier engineering firm and a ballooning price tag, recently estimated at about $27 million. The expected completion date of the project is January 2016, with construction slated to begin this October.
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