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A Constant Conversation with the Community

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A Constant Conversation with the Community

Maintaining an open dialogue about The Bay Park as our plans evolve and our knowledge grows, is vital to our progress and has always been a priority for our team. Below is just one example of the personalized, thoughtful responses that we ensure to provide to every member of the community with a question or comment.

To The Bay Sarasota,
I am a resident at 988 Boulevard of the Arts.


From the beginning I have been a supporter of the Bay Sarasota initiative.  The overall vision of transforming this substantial civic asset into a more vibrant, environmentally friendly and accessible destination is a worthy project for the City and its citizens to support.

I am very concerned though by what appears to be a substantial expansion of the ambitions of Phase I from earlier renderings. 

The huge circular pier seems totally out of proportion to the space and an attempt to cram all of the goals of the overall project in the first phase.  

It also seems to be an inappropriate incursion into both the fragile beach and mangrove areas which are the most unique natural features of the entire project space.  You risk turning phase one into more of a carnival attraction, than a peaceful contemplative space to approach the Bay.  

This is a long term multi-phase effort.  Throwing the entire kitchen sink into the first phase seems ill-conceived and irrevocable.

I also strongly object to the removal of the trees and island in Boulevard of the Arts.  This is the gateway to the bay.  It is already well designed, functional and beautiful.  It also is a residential street (with more condos on the way).

The original renderings were more appropriate to the ambitions and purpose of this project.  The circular pier idea is simply an overreach and a mistake.

I am respectfully requesting that the phase 1 effort be reconsidered.  It should be an introduction to the Bay and a prelude (and initial deposit) of what is still to come.  

This newest proposal is simply overdone and overwrought.  

Sincerely,
X

Thank you, X, for your ongoing interest, support and feedback.

As we understand your comments, you are concerned about the “substantial expansion of the ambitions” of Phase 1 of the Bay Park, the scale of the circular pier, and the proposed redesign of Boulevard of the Arts replacing the median island with street lined palm trees, plantings, more park open space/lawns and a wider walkway on the north/park side of the boulevard.

I recall you were able to join Bill and me for our initial conversation with 988 and 888 residents last Thursday afternoon. This was one of several ongoing community outreach dialogues we are engaging in with not only neighbors adjacent to the Bay Park, but also other Sarasota residents and stakeholders. A continuing conversation is also well underway on www.thebaysarasota.org website including www.askthebay.org and on our Facebook page.

In fact, the “ambitions”, scale and scope of Phase 1 have been restrained and focused on the guiding principles…and on the conservation and environmental realities…of the first 9-10 acre phase of the future Bay Park.

As I hope you realize, the 53-acre master plan and the Phase 1 Master Plan approved by the city are conceptual designs. As the design and implementation teams work together to create an implementation plan to guide development and ultimately construction of the Park, conservation and environmental requirements, a wide range of feasibility issues, and of course cost and funding realities come into play.

The first phase of the Park consists of a significantly enhanced nature preserve, a sunset pier, and a series of lawns that slope/tier upward from the bay shoreline.

The nature preserve includes a softened and more resilient natural shoreline, an environmentally restored bayou and mangrove, and significantly improved accessibility to both the land and the water.

You will be pleased to know that the circular or spiral shape of the sunset pier is the direct result of a series of environmental studies that clearly direct us to design over the bay access that respects and protects sea grass beds, coral-like growth, and both the natural bay and bayou habitats.

While the exact scale, size, shape of the pier has not been determined and will evolve as we learn more about its optimum location, the launch and landing points on the lawn and over the bayou are intended to avoid disrupting the bayou and mangroves…or being too close to Boulevard of the Arts.

(As we meet with and hear more from the community, consistently the most desired feature in Phase 1 is the sunset pier. There are a wide range of opinions about the conceptual design, shape and size…but virtually all members of our Sarasota community want more accessibility to, and views of, the Bay.)

We have actually focused more on conservation, environmental restoration, protection and enhancement in the first phase design than we did in the master plan, because we continue to learn more about the natural environment and what it takes to sustain it.

And, we have actually reduced the scope and intensity of the initial Phase 1 design. There are no plans for a permanent restaurant. (Any restaurant considerations will be deferred to a later phase and probably be located in the “canal zone” to the north.) We are now contemplating fewer permanent structures…only a few shaded areas to provide basic, minimal pop-up food, beverage, rest room, and event service support. Most of the space will consist of nature preserve and public lawns.

We do very much want to continue the dialogue about Boulevard of the Arts. Our objective is the same as yours. We want a beautiful residential boulevard that is the gateway to a beautiful signature community park on Sarasota Bay.

There are, of course, differences of opinion among city planners and the Sasaki team…and a wide variety of community residents…about which design and what specific features would result in the desired outcome. We should continue our conversation with our minds open to creating a design and planning solution that represents a “third way” none of us have yet contemplated.

Thanks again for your thoughtful input. We look forward to continuing community outreach to create a community park on Sarasota Bay that meets the needs and desires of the vast majority of our citizens.

AG Lafley, CEO
Bill Waddill, Chief Implementation Officer
Gina Ford, Principal Design and Implementation Team
Susannah Ross, Principal Design and Implementation Team

Thank you for this thoughtful (and prompt) response.

I appreciate and am re-assured by your comments.  I feel this entire process has been well managed and transparent and your note reflects that.

As many of the details will evolve during the design, funding and execution phases, I welcome the opportunity to stay connected to how your thinking proceeds.  My comments about the pier were principally around the scale of it which just seemed a bit imposing and overly grand in the renderings.  I do support the concept of a sunset overlook and/or pier as a very appropriate part of the first phase.  

As to Boulevard of the Arts, this is literally a “close to home” issue so it is important that whatever is considered acknowledges that for many of us, this is our street address and daily access to our homes.

Thank you for your response and creativity in remaking our waterfront.
I look forward to a wonderful transformation.
Best wishes,

X

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