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Brent Parker stands at the Sarasota bayfront, which his Sarasota Vision project hopes to one day connect to Main Street via a pedestrian walkway. Parker is a resident of Golden Gate Point.
Sarasota Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012 5 years ago

Neighbors: Brent Parker

by: Nick Friedman Managing Editor of Arts and Culture

Brent Parker is an architect who likes to stay ahead of the technological curve.

“We’re no longer drawing,” Parker says. “The program we’re using doesn’t even have a line tool. We place walls and windows much like a contractor would do in the physical realm, only we do it virtually.”

Parker says these three-dimensional drafts allow customers who aren’t trained to read floor plans envision the final product more easily, which may be the reason one of his latest projects is getting positive reactions around town.

Parker and local activist Gil Waters recently teamed up to finalize a 50-year-old plan for downtown Sarasota that would create a pedestrian-only Main Street and a pedestrian walkway connecting it to the Sarasota bayfront.

“The fact that I can offer these three-dimensional drafts really helps people understand what the project will look like,” Parker says. “I took it to the farmers market, and out of the 75 people that I talked to, only one person voiced a problem with it.”

Parker’s and Waters’ promotional efforts seem to be paying off, and community interest in the project is gaining steam. Parker presented the plan at the Golden Gate Point meeting in January, during which members unanimously voted to write a letter to the Sarasota City Commission to support it.

The Coalition of City Neighborhoods Association members also expressed interest in having Parker outline the details of his new downtown vision at their next meeting.

Parker expects the Downtown Improvement District to bring the plan before the commission within the next month, and he hopes to present in parallel with them.

City Commissioner Paul Caragiulo is open-minded about the proposal.

“I am intrigued about anyone that has a vision for this town and am willing to review it,” Caragiulo says. 

Although there is enthusiasm surrounding the project, there are some detractors — mostly downtown merchants.

“They’re worried about the disruption, but there are ways to ease that,” says Parker, who suggests that using materials such as brick as opposed to concrete would make for a much less intrusive construction process. He adds that the pedestrian-only Main Street could be tested using retractable metal poles to gage its success.

“At the end of the day, it would lead to a huge increase in downtown pedestrian traffic.”

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