What's Happening with the Bay Project?

  • Lisa Rooks Morris
  • 02/1/19
The Plan:
As a hub for Sarasota's arts and culture, the plan will enhance existing facilities like the municipal auditorium, Sarasota Arts Center, Blue Pagoda, and Sarasota Garden Club, while rebuilding a new performing arts hall, amphitheater, and other new arts facilities. The current plan calls for the repurposing of the Van Wezel.
Being that this will be a regional destination, connectivity improvements have been at the top of the priority list, promising pedestrian bridges on 10th street and BLVD of the arts, waterfront promenade, waterfront drive, four parking structures, and a multi-use recreation trail.
Boating at the Bay will be enhanced through the redevelopment of the 10th street boat ramp. Plans also include a water taxi, fishing piers, kayaking by the mangroves, and ecological gardens.
September was a monumental time for the project when conceptual plans were presented and unanimously adopted by City Commission, as well as the implementation of Phase 1.
Timeline and Funding:
A project of this magnitude will be completed in phases over a 25 year period. Between $250-$500 million is estimated for the entire project.
Diverse public and contributed funds could be combined with value capture mechanisms to meet with capital funding needs. Currently the SBPO is exploring funding sources such as establishing a TIFF (tax increment financing), tourist development tax, public funding through federal and state, city/county bond issues and philanthropy.
Current Stage:
On Monday, February 4, 2019 a City Commission meeting was held to discuss/approve the essential elements/term sheet for development of the Memorandum of Agreement between the City of Sarasota and the Bay Park Conservancy. The Commission did not approve the terms of raising money, implementing and operating the project claiming that they were too vague. Instead the Commission agreed to have the organization return on March 18th with a draft of a final contract with more pulbic input, as well as an outline that mirrors a term sheet. They were also asked to reappear on April 1st with a final conservancy contract.
In addition, while the current SBPO transfers into the Bay Park Conservancy, final plans are being developed and proposed for the implementation of phase 1. Phase 1, which encompasses 10 acres off of BLVD of the Arts, promises a recreational pier with outdoor dining, picnic tables, lawns, shade structures, vendors, and more. The project estimated cost is around $10-20 million.

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