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Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 25, 2020 2 years ago

Noise concerns raise questions about downtown balance

A group of condo owners is worried about potential sound issues, but a city commissioner says the heart of the city was built for a mix of activity.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Tavern on Main Brewery is still more than six months away from opening at 1468 Main St., but already, the restaurant and bar is the subject of some scrutiny from neighboring residents.

Earlier this month, John Bordeaux sent an email to City Commissioner Liz Alpert expressing concern about the possibility of noise issues arising at Tavern on Main Brewery. Bordeaux copied more than a dozen other residents of The Mark, a 157-unit condominium building at State Street and Lemon Avenue, on the email.

Bordeaux said the people living across an alleyway from Main Street were worried about detrimental effects from nearby nightlife activity.

“FYI, [Tavern on Main Brewery] is exactly 20 feet from The Mark,” Bordeaux wrote. “We are no longer a surface parking lot, rather 157 residential units. I’m not sure the city has come to that realization yet.”

Both Alpert and the owners of Tavern on Main Brewery said the residents’ fears were rooted in some misconceptions. Dana Speer, part of Segreti Hospitality Group, stressed that the business would serve primarily as a restaurant. It will operate with a restaurant liquor license, which does not require a conditional use permit from the city. And there are no plans for outdoor music on the business’s rooftop bar.

Speer said she believed any fears were unfounded and that Tavern on Main Brewery would prove to be an asset for residents in the heart of the city, not a detraction.

“I want The Mark residents to feel welcome and like we’re making something that’s enhancing their downtown living experience,” Speer said.

Beyond the focus on Tavern on Main Brewery, though, The Mark residents also expressed more general concern about the dynamics of downtown Sarasota. In a separate email, resident David Sebring mentioned a festival on State Street earlier in the year that created noise until 2 a.m. Sebring suggested the increasing number of residential buildings in the downtown core should cause city leaders to reassess the emphasis on entertainment — particularly late-night entertainment — within the district.

“Downtown Sarasota is changing from a tourism and entertainment venue into an entertainment and residential district,” Sebring wrote. “Our success depends on our ability to shift emphasis from just tourism and entertainment to balanced priorities that build a harmonious and thriving community, where people will want to live and work as well as to play.”

Alpert noted that the city already has noise regulations in place that govern the hours when outdoor amplified sound is allowed downtown. She said the city plans to revisit its sound ordinance in the near future, and she’s willing to have a conversation about whether any revisions are necessary.

But Alpert makes clear she does not think the presence of residential buildings, restaurants, bars and event spaces in close proximity is inherently an issue. Just the opposite: She said the vision for a mix of uses in the city center dates back nearly two decades, when officials brought in urban planner Andres Duany to produce a downtown master plan.

Alpert said the construction of The Mark and Tavern on Main Brewery both represent the actualization of that vision. She noted the city has continued to take steps to make downtown a more vibrant, active vision, including redesigning a segment of Lemon Avenue adjacent to The Mark, so it could be used as a site for outdoor events.

Alpert said that she understood the concerns of residents in buildings including The Mark, but she said that had to be balanced against the needs of business owners and other residents who visit downtown. She also said she’s heard from other downtown residents who say the proximity to restaurants, bars and events is why they decided to move there in the first place.

She suggested the influx of new residential projects downtown would not have happened without the more vibrant atmosphere the city has fostered in the area.

“That’s why you would choose to live downtown,” Alpert said. “You want to be at the center of all this activity.”

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