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Sarasota Bayfront redevelopment plan underway

Master planning 53 prime Bayfront acres is perhaps the most challenging and yet exciting undertaking the Sarasota community has embarked upon.

In 2018, Sasaki, the design firm hired to plan the Bayfront project, unveiled a revised draft of its Master Plan that was met with enthusiasm at its community unveiling. The City Commission subsequently approved the master plan.

The acreage spans from G-Wiz on the south and follows the Bayfront including the Van Wezel, the 10th Street Boat Ramp, the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium and the expansive parking lot.

Sasaki has spent about half a year receiving feedback from tens of thousands of residents and received more than 3,000 surveys with residents offering clear opinions that collectively shaped the plan.

The majority of residents, according to Sasaki, wanted Bayfront pedestrian accessibility, the presence of signature cultural amenitites such as the Van Wezel, as well as passive recreation, a boat ramp and dining opportunities in the future redevelopment.

The Master Plan shows these amenities and more and includes numerous pedestrian bridges, a pier, a one-acre event lawn, a new Van Wezel, a bait and tackle shop, botanical gardens, and a 3,000-4,000 square foot restaurant.

The largest component of the redevelopment of the city-owned acreage which has been dubbed “The Bay” will be a new Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. According to the Van Wezel Director, the current Hall has numerous failing systems as well as configuration challenges in its seating as well as lobby areas.

According to Sasaki, the cost for the entire redevelopment will range from $340 million to $420 million.

The Sarasota Orchestra announced to the Sarasota City Commission that it would not be part of the Bayfront Plan and would find a new home within the city.

The Orchestra, which employs about 300 people, will rely on both public and private financial support to pay for the new building. According to the Sarasota Orchestra, the number of years to develop the Bayfront would preclude other options.

The Orchestra used 2018 to search for a location and development cost to initiate a fundraising campaign.

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