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Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 3, 2010 7 years ago

Downtown construction gets under way

by: Robin Roy City Editor

Seemingly at every turn downtown, there are signs of new life, of revitalization. While mired in the economic downturn, new construction virtually stopped. But, today, cranes rise daily on Palm Avenue; crews are digging below Main Street; and the final touches are being put on plans for the Five Points intersection, Main Street and Palm Avenue intersection and landscaping improvements throughout downtown.

Because those five projects will be intertwining through the rest of 2010, the city concocted an intricate timeline to keep all five from affecting each other.

Work began as planned June 1, on the 1300 block of Main Street. The contractor, Jon F. Swift Inc., is replacing a 50-year-old underground waterline.

Originally, that project was expected to close the entire block for the month of June. But Jason Swift, company president, announced two weeks ago that only half of the 1300 block would be closed at a time, with the added good news that the work may only take a total of two weeks.

The section from Palm Avenue to Mira Mar Court is officially scheduled to be closed until about June 15, but Swift said it could re-open a week early.

The stretch from Mira Mar Court to Five Points is scheduled to close from June 15 to June 30, but is subject to change.

The Palm Avenue parking garage was the first project to kick off the downtown building boom. Suffolk Construction began work on the 740-space public garage April 1. Construction is expected to last until mid-December.

Crews are continuing their work this week, next focusing on the garage’s pilings and utilities. Workers did encounter a delay with a waterline that was supposed to be in the alleyway, but was not located where they thought. It took about a week for crews to locate it and get back on the construction timetable.

But project consultant Mary Ellen Maurer said the small delay should not affect the overall project timeline, because workers were a week ahead of schedule at the time.

The Five Points roundabout will begin July 5 — the day after the annual Fourth of July parade on Main Street. The work will close the intersection until Sept. 3. The finishing touches will take until Nov. 23, but traffic will be able to move through Five Points.

After cars are able to move again through Five Points, work on improvements to the Main Street and Palm Avenue intersection will begin.

The city is increasing the size of the sidewalk bulbouts to make the pedestrian crossings shorter. New planters and trees will also be installed in the beautification project.

The Downtown Improvement District is responsible for the landscape and streetscape improvements throughout downtown. That project isn’t scheduled to begin until November, after most of the major work on the others is complete.

Five Points Patriotism

Five Points sprang to life as a gathering place toward the end of World War I. Sarasota pioneer Bertha Palmer had a flagpole erected in the middle of the intersection, and the message, “Welcome buddies,” was painted there to honor returning soldiers in 1917.

The city will restore that message in the center of the coming Five Points roundabout. An American flag will fly at the center of the roundabout, and city staff members are working on a way to permanently place the “Welcome buddies” message into the brick wall that will surround the flag.

A commemorative plaque explaining the history of Five Points will be placed beneath the clock tower in Five Points park.

Click here to download a PDF of a map showing where to park during construction.

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].

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