Sarasota’s ‘The Bay’ moves forward with new funding and City support

Editor & Publisher

It’s been a positive month for The Bay project, which is a plan to redevelop and repurpose 53 publicly-owned acres of waterfront property surrounding the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

The project has been in the planning phases for years with a final design created by the firm Sasaki and implemented The Bay Park Conservancy.

The first phase of the project is to create and implement a detailed site plan for the southernmost nine acres of the overall property along the north side of Boulevard of the Arts.

Last month, the City of Sarasota Commission unanimously voted in support of Phase I and that vote allows a detailed site plan to be created.

Most recently, it was announced last week that private donors have invested $5 million into Phase I of the Master Plan triggering the first of three potential $1 million gifts from The Patterson Foundation.

The Patterson Foundation has committed the money to help The Bay Park Conservancy in its effort to raise a total of $20 million toward Phase I of the project.

The first phase will stretch north of Boulevard of the Arts from U.S. 41 to the Bayfront, creating a 10-acre community park. Phase I will include open space for events and activities, restoration of the existing mangroves, a boardwalk on the Bay and additional amenities.

Phase I has evolved over recent months with the following changes:

• Additional parking has been added to accommodate food trucks and kayak launches

• The two-acre green space lawn was reduced to one acre when residents became fearful of the idea of reducing Boulevard of the Arts west of U.S. 41 to two lanes. As a result, restrooms and a food pavilion were moved from Blvd. of the Arts to the east end of the proposed lawn, allowing sunset views.

Originally, the plan showed a large arching pier that is now being referred to as a “sunset boardwalk.”

A.G. Lafley, CEO of The Bay Park Conservancy, has said that a pedestrian overpass on U.S. 41 connecting the project with the  Rosemary District is a possibility. He also said that due to the sizeable private donations, he is confident that no public tax increment financing will be needed for Phase I.

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