Skip to main content
Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009 8 years ago

Restaurant fights for outdoor dining

by: Robin Roy City Editor

A controversy is brewing over the construction plans of a new Main Street restaurant and the city’s greenspace plan. The problem appears to stem from the definition of the word “greenspace.”

The Braza Brazilian restaurant on Main Street, which is still under construction, is attempting to create an outdoor dining space on a sidewalk bulbout. But two plans submitted to the city have been turned down, because they didn’t meet the greenspace-plan standards. A third plan will be handed over next week.

“This is ridiculous,” said Larry Fineberg, Downtown Improvement District (DID) chairman. “This is everything that is wrong with dealing with the city.”

Ernie Ritz, DID vice chairman and head of Ritz Construction, which is building the restaurant, said he didn’t understand why the first two plans did not meet greenspace standards.

Those standards ask that new development increase the quantity of greenspace, but if the quantity of greenspace is reduced, then it must increase the quality of the greenspace.

“I put in 148 square feet of pavers,” said Ritz. “I’m taking out seven Indian hawthorne plants that only collect cigarette butts and replacing them with more than 210 new plants. But they say I’m not improving the quality of the plants.”

Dr. Clifford Smith, city senior planner, said quality doesn’t apply to the actual plants, but to the design of the plantings — for example, the bulbouts approved for the intersection of Main Street and Palm Avenue.

Plants and trees will be placed in raised planters there, which provide additional seating space and pedestrian walkways, so people don’t walk directly through a plant bed. Smith calls it an urban design — a design that was lacking in the Braza restaurant’s first two plans.

Smith said they only added new plants on a smaller pile of dirt.

“I think that’s where the confusion comes in,” said Smith. “Plants are inherently temporary. The design is permanent, and that’s what matters.”

Both sides seem to agree that improving downtown is their common goal.

“In the end, we want to see this become a success,” said Smith.

Related Stories