Community Leadership on the Sarasota Bayfront

Gulf Coast


These are tough times for constructive conversation. With each new issue that our national leaders pledge to address, it seems their progress is soon stymied by coarse division, factionalism and ideological blinders.

But here on the Gulf Coast, a very transparent and positive planning process is subverting those all-too- common hurdles. The Bay, as the project has come to be known, exemplifies what’s possible when community members come together to move their community forward. And it will result in an amazing place that I can’t wait to experience.

The Bay encompasses our community’s long-term vision of what Sarasota’s Bayfront can and will be. Through an open, citizen-driven process, community members have jointly articulated their wishes and needs for the future of 42 acres of prime waterfront property owned by the City of Sarasota but underutilized in its current state. Public access, cultural heritage, natural preservation, active use, community connectivity and long-term sustainability are all guiding principles affirmed by community members. (For continued updates and new information on the process, be sure to monitor The

Now, a volunteer planning organization is moving those aspirations toward reality and has hired a world-renowned planning and development firm, Sasaki, to shape a professional master plan. That work has been fully funded by community contributions. A yearlong effort to raise $2.1 million has succeeded thanks to local philanthropists, foundations and private sources.

Once the master plan is completed, it will go before Sarasota’s elected officials for review and, eventually, approval. From there, more funding will be needed—from public, private and philanthropic sources—to physically transform The Bay property and realize our community’s vision. But as Sasaki’s lead planner said during a recent visit to Sarasota for a series of community meetings, “great things are worth doing.”

So are the right things. Public-private partnership. Abundant citizen input. Ongoing discussion and debate in service of reaching the best outcome for our entire community. Those are things we could use more of in a lot of places. I am glad to witness them in action here. Happy holidays, everyone, from your friends at Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Dr. Mark S. Pritchett is president/CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

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