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Sarasota Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017 2 years ago

Negotiations with private Lido pavilion operator advance

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Despite a push to keep the Lido Beach pool and pavilion under city control, the City Commission still intends to have a private operator manage the property.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

At today’s City Commission meeting, Lido Key residents asked the board to keep the Lido Beach pool and pavilion public — and end its pursuit of a private operator to manage the facilities.

The commission instead voted to continue negotiations with a private group on a contract to operate the city-owned property, but the board vowed maintaining public access would be a priority as staff works to produce a contract.

“This is going to remain public,” Commissioner Liz Alpert said. “We’re going to make sure this remains public.”

In late 2015, the city began negotiations with Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners LLC as it sought a private operator for the pavilion area. Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners is a group consisting of restaurant partnership SMG Holdings, which owns Daiquiri Deck, and developer JWM Management, the company behind the One Palm project in Sarasota.

The plans have evolved following a year of public input. Those plans initially included a mini-golf course and generated strong negative feedback from Lido residents. The most recent proposal, however, got a warmer reception. It includes a 200-seat restaurant, a 38-seat tiki bar, a playground, a splash pad in addition to general improvements to the facility.

Troy Syprett, a representative for Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners, said the plans were in line with the Lido Key Residents Association’s 2011 proposal to refurbish the pavilion. But Lido residents argued the city, now in a more stable financial position, could maintain control of the property while making upgrades.

In a 4-1 vote today, the commission disagreed.

“We can’t keep putting band-aids on this,” Commissioner Suzanne Atwell said. “I like private money. We need private money.”

Commissioner Susan Chapman was the only dissenting vote, arguing an agreement with a private operator would restrict public access to the pavilion.

“To me — and we’re going to face this again and again — the privatization of public space is just not the right way to go in these public-private partnerships,” Chapman said.

The City Commission still has to approve a final contract once staff reaches an agreement with the private operator, giving the public one more opportunity to comment on the proposal.

After the meeting, Syprett said access to the pavilion would not be materially affected if Lido Beach Redevelopment Partners assumes control of the property.

“Lido Beach has been an underutilized asset for the city,” he said. “We want to return this facility to being a jewel of the city — for everyone in the city.”

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