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New College students to design north-end plan

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  • | 5:00 a.m. December 21, 2011
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Longboat Key’s last major planning effort came in the days when Arvida was building the island. But that’s about to change thanks to a new joint effort between the Longboat Key, Lido Key, St. Armands Key Chamber of Commerce and New College students announced Dec. 19 by Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force Chairman and former Mayor George Spoll.

In January and February, Dr. David Brain, sociology professor at New College and board member of the Portland, Ore.,-based National Charrette Institute, will lead students as they create a design charrette of the north end of Longboat Key as part of an independent study project.

“This is to be a public discussion about the future of Longboat’s north end, led by Dr. Brain, an acknowledged community planning expert, and a professional and unbiased team, gathering the thoughts of interested Longboaters,” Spoll said in a prepared statement. “We want this to be the Task Force’s gift to the town and its people.”

The idea formed as the result of the Revitalization Task Force’s discussion about the north end, which is home to the aging Whitney Beach Plaza and a vacant gas station and bank building.

“Progress has been halted, and we were very, very concerned about stimulating that process on the north end because it is highly necessary to the rest of the island,” Spoll said.

Although Task Force members wanted to involve the community in the process of planning, they didn’t have the funds necessary to hire a planning firm for the project.

Eventually, Chamber President Tom Aposporos suggested taking advantage of local, independent resources, which eventually led to the joint project with New College.

The project will begin in January with students collecting background information about the area’s history, a review of past plans and existing zoning, along with an analysis of existing conditions. Students will interview residents and resident groups, business and commercial property owners, elected officials and town staff to gather information. Brain and his students will then publicly hold a stakeholders’ workshop during which they will present background information and seek community input. They will then assemble the materials into a report to gather input from architects, planners and other professionals to assemble further ideas.

The final product will be presented publicly to the community. Meetings will likely take place at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts, a Division of the Ringling College of Art and Design. Task Force member and Ringling College Trustee Cheryl Loeffler will assist in the preparation of the final report, while another Task Force member, Richard Levin, who is a retired architect and Longbeach Village resident, will organize the professional team of architects and planners for the development of design ideas.

Aposporos said that one goal of the project is to generate as many ideas as possible.

“I personally believe, as someone with experience in the redevelopment world, that this is an opportunity for property owners to participate in the process,” he said.

Spoll expressed confidence in the possibilities for the north end.

“There is no doubt that, properly done, with the resurgence of the shopping center, the right mix of residential with possibly a boutique hotel and the improvements possibly taking place at Mar Vista, that the north end could become the most interesting part of Longboat Key,” he said.


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