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Sarasota Thursday, Jul. 23, 2009 8 years ago

Merchants desire streetcars

by: Robin Roy City Editor

Pastry Art owner Forrest Shaw foresees a day when streetcars carry tourists to their favorite stores to shop and dine or allow residents to leave their cars at home and ride to their downtown offices.

“A streetcar would bring people downtown for the novelty of riding it,” Shaw said. “It would also make (the) downtown more attractive to live in.”

Shaw, together with Brian Andersen, owner of Mosaic, are lobbying city and county commissioners to apply for a TIGER grant to build an electric streetcar system on Main Street, from School Avenue to Marina Jack.

TIGER stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. In May, the federal government announced that it was making available $1.5 billion in TIGER grants to put toward transportation projects. Each state is eligible for $300 million.

Shaw thinks a piece of that money will serve as a stimulus to revitalize downtown Sarasota.

“It doesn’t seem that there’s a broad vision in Sarasota,” he said. “(A streetcar system) would help the entire community and would put us on the map.”

Shaw and Andersen envision a fixed rail placed in each lane of Main Street, so the streetcars could move both east and west, along with vehicular traffic.

“Wherever you put fixed rail, you have large direct investment,” Shaw said. “Put it in, and it will draw money and people.”

The deadline for TIGER grant applications is Sept. 15. Shaw said he has approached both city and county commissioners about getting the necessary paperwork to the federal government in time.

“If we get this, it could reactivate Pineapple Square, the Benderson hotel (at Main Street and Orange Avenue) and a convention center,” Shaw said.

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