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Sarasota Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009 10 years ago

Letter to the editor

by: Ian Black

Dear Editor:

Coming soon to a theater near you, the next great Sarasota debate — the design of the Palm Avenue parking garage. Now that we have put the “Unconditional Surrender” discussion behind us, will the design of the Palm Avenue garage be our next cause célèbre?

It was City Commissioner Terry Turner who said, “I’m looking for assurances we’re not going to have something the community’s ashamed of.”

Although the design of the structure is somewhat predetermined, we are now being told that the selected contractor and/or City Hall will be able to propose architectural reinterpretations to the façade. The City Commission ultimately retains the control to revise the project’s architecture.

We are a community that is sensitive to good architecture. Didn’t it take 10 years to agree to a design for the Ringling Bridge? The commissioners now have the unenviable task of ensuring that the parking garage will not only be something that we are proud of for many decades to come, but also to set the benchmark for future buildings.

Is it reasonable to ask the commissioners to be the final arbiters of good taste? Even Mayor Dick Clapp remarked: “The five of us sitting here will have a difficult time deciding on what good architecture is.”
Maybe we should appoint a blue-ribbon citizens panel.

As this projects moves ahead, hopefully we will find comfort in the words of Commissioner Suzanne Atwell, who said she now knows a lot about design/build projects and believes that we will end up with a “feel-good, signature parking garage that is women-friendly.”

One can also appreciate Atwell and the concern for the time, effort and expense 16 potential contractors have spent in preparing their project bids, but it pales in comparison to the millions of dollars exhausted by previous groups in attempting to develop this property.

Finally, is it not a concern that neither the public nor the 16 contractors have been informed as to who will make the final design selection? Stay tuned.

Ian Black

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