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Main Street enhancements include widened sidewalks and changes in streetscape to create a uniform  appearance in the historic district. File photo.
Siesta Key Thursday, Sep. 29, 2011 6 years ago

Sarasota Main Street renovations proposed

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

City of Sarasota residents will be invited to meet next month to select a proposal designed to transform Main Street from Bayfront Drive to U.S. 301 and put the spotlight on the downtown historic district, which stretches along Main Street from Gulfstream to Orange Avenue and includes portions of Palm Avenue.

The Downtown Improvement District will host a public workshop at 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 10, in the commission chambers to discuss a project that city officials hope also will bring continuity to Main Street. Among the proposed Main Street enhancements are widened sidewalks and changes to the streetscape to create uniformity in appearance, while making the historic district easily recognizable.

During the meeting, members of the public will sit at tables after hearing an overview of the project; they will collaborate on what kind of changes they would like to see undertaken.

The city then will host a November meeting to vet a project that will reflect the public’s suggestions.

“The objective is to build consensus as to the design, estimate a cost and come up with a master plan to achieve the changes for the overall project,” said DID Operations Manager John Moran. “By the end of December, we hope to have a plan in place, an estimated cost and the potential timing of when these changes will occur. The first step, however, is finding out what the public wants.”

One concept previously proposed has been the replacement of the asphalt pavement in the historic district with brick pavers.

The idea for the project stems from a June 2010 event called SemCon 2010-I, which provided an overview and history of Sarasota and highlighted successes in other historic downtowns.

In October 2010, SemCon 2010-II, with the theme, “Building the Future on the Best of the Past,” was formulated as a follow-up city workshop; it welcomed all residents and business owners to discuss different options for downtown.

The goal was to bring citizens, designers and decision-makers together in groups at tables to build a new or alternative vision for downtown through teamwork and competition.

Another goal of that second, two-day SemCon, which attracted 190 attendees, was to learn from residents what projects the DID Board of Directors should establish as priorities to be paid for with the annual funds it receives from contributors.

The workshop focused on how to:
• Create a center of economic activity;
• Create antidotes to sprawl;
• Make the heart of the downtown walkable and accessible to all.

When votes were tabulated at the end of the second workshop, two of the top-nine selections related to Main Street: clearly delineating the historic district and connecting Main Street to Sarasota Bay.
Along with the suggestion of brick-paved streets, other proposals called for distinctive streetlights with an antique flair, uniform bulb-outs and landscaping, parallel parking, wayfinding signage and improved downtown walkability.

“The goal is for people to be able to drive into the historic district and know they are there,” said city planner Steve Stancel. “There are a number of suggestions to discuss, but the first step is going to the public and asking them what those changes should be.”

The future main Street project will be divided among four areas:
• Bayfront Park to the Five Points roundabout;
• Five Points roundabout to Orange Avenue;
• Orange Avenue to Osprey Avenue;
• Osprey Avenue to U.S. 301;

DID Chairman Ernie Ritz said he was excited about the future of Main Street.

“The historic district has to look different than the rest of Main Street,” Ritz said.

Stancel called the upcoming workshop an exciting time for downtown Sarasota.

“The city’s downtown master plan identified walkability and connectivity as major goals,” Stancel said. “This is all about a consistent vision for downtown, and we continue to need the public’s input for this vision.”

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