Sarasota’s ‘The Bay’ plan back on agenda for vote

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Now that Sarasota City Attorney Robert Fournier has reviewed and revised a master plan between the City and Bay Park Conservancy to develop 53 acres surrounding the Van Wezel, the issue is slated for a vote.

On Monday, April 15, the Sarasota City Commission will consider the final partnership agreement that spells out the responsibilities of the City and the Bay Park Conservancy in the endeavor to redevelop the 53 acres into a public-use space collectively referred to as “The Bay.”

The plan has been in the works for years and in many ways, decades, and if a final version of the agreement is approved, fundraising for Phase I of the project can begin.

The first phase shows a minimal cost of $14-$22 million with $10-$15 million being generated through philanthropy.

The cost breakdown shows state and federal sources funding $1-$2 million in the first phase, Development Impact Fees funding $1 million, Tax Increment Financing funding $1-$2 million and city taxpayers funding $1-$2 million.

It was Attorney Fournier who made it clear last March that he had not been involved in developing the agreement and demanded more time to review the City’s responsibilities and obligations as well as its protections. The entirety of the 53 acres is public property.

The project will take years to build out is slated to cost nearly $500 million, which includes the cost of a new Van Wezel arts venue. Some of the anticipated revenue is from tax increment financing, which has been a contentious issue with the Sarasota County Commission.

The first portion, or Phase I, includes a recreational pier, pedestrian crossover of U.S. 41 and pathways and a park on about 10 acres of the 53-acre total.

Members of the Bay Park Conservancy have said although they wish to move forward as quickly as possible with the fundraising, they understood the necessity of getting all the details right in the agreement with the City and expressed that they wish to have a unanimous vote of approval at the April 15 meeting.

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