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High-profile Sarasota projects hope to make major strides in 2020

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High-profile Sarasota projects hope to make major strides in 2020

How do the groups overseeing these planning efforts intend to get it done?

Headed into 2020, leaders of several high-profile projects in Sarasota are working on moving out of the planning phase and into the process of making their vision a reality.

From The Bay Sarasota on the downtown waterfront to Mote Marine Aquarium and Laboratory’s land near Interstate 75, community organizations are determined to break ground and secure hundreds of millions of dollars to build regional attractions.

Here are three of those projects that hope to make major progress in the next year:

The Bay Sarasota

  • Project details: 53-acre public bayfront park with a 10-acre initial phase
  • Project cost: $100 million to $200 million overall; $25 million for Phase 1
  • Targeted project timeline: Phase 1 construction beginning summer 2020. Phase 1 open by the end of 2021.

After seven years of planning work, The Bay Sarasota hopes 2020 will be the year it can begin construction in earnest on the first phase of a park project encompassing more than 50 acres of city-owned waterfront land surrounding the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

The first phase of The Bay project, being developed in partnership with the city of Sarasota, will be a park on 10 acres of land located north of Boulevard of the Arts. Key elements include a spiral boardwalk above the water, an open-space events lawn, a food and beverage pavilion and a mangrove bayou.

The Bay, an independent planning organization tasked with overseeing the park project, hopes construction can begin this summer and the first phase can be built by the end of 2021. The group must gain a series of additional approvals from the city this year year before beginning construction.

To fund the $25 million first phase of the project — and more than $100 million to build out the park over the span of more than a decade — The Bay developed a multi-track financial strategy. The organization is focusing its initial efforts primarily on philanthropic contributions, hoping to raise $20 million in private donations toward Phase 1. Already, the group has secured $14 million in commitments from donors.

Veronica Brady, The Bay’s director of advancement, said those who have contributed toward the project have expressed excitement about helping build a public asset on land that is largely dedicated to surface parking today.

“The donors who have generously invested in us thus far are really thinking of it as a legacy gift to our community,” Brady said.

Despite the number of high-profile capital campaigns underway in Sarasota at the outset of 2020, Brady is confident The Bay and other organizations can achieve their fundraising targets.

“My personal opinion is we’ve created a community that is philanthropic, and that it isn’t an either/or,” Brady said.

Long term, The Bay is working with the city and county on creating a tax-increment financing district that would funnel property tax revenue from the area near the bayfront toward funding the project. According to city estimates, the terms under consideration could provide more than $200 million over a 30-year period. The Bay Chief Implementation Officer Bill Waddill hoped a deal authorizing the TIF could be in place by this summer.

NOTE: This article was originally published by The Observer on January 2, 2020.
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