No Longer the Nay-front, Bayfront Plans Continue Apace

Todays News

Pictured: Renderings of both The Bridge and Canal District plans. Images courtesy of SBPO and Sasaki.

Editor’s note: This is a condensed version of a longer article comprising further history of the process and detail of the various proposed plans of the past and today. The full article can be found on the SRQ magazine website.

With near 200 folks at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium and unknown more watching live via Facebook, Bill Waddill of the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization and Sasaki Designers Gina Ford and Susannah Ross presented the latest plans for the Bayfront yesterday evening, before opening both up to community input. Using the previously released Bridge the Divide plan as a foundation, Ford cited many advantages, including slight community preference, centrally located but unobtrusive parking, simplified phasing for inevitable construction and a great opportunity for iconic architecture to enhance the Bayfront. Also, in response to a very vocal minority (roughly 10% of respondents to April’s survey) concerned with the future of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, this plan takes that into account.

The refined plans have taken more solid shape in the south, says Ford, where changes to the design reflected concerns about pedestrian access from the Boulevard of the Arts area, activating the space with shaded recreation and capturing and preserving Bay views from the Bayfront and surrounding areas. The current plans incorporate the previously planned three pedestrian bridges, but revamp the southernmost one to arc over the coming roundabout at Boulevard of the Arts and Tamiami Trail, before looping out over the water, becoming its own destination. The rest of that corridor will then be filled in with options like casual dining, athletic courts and picnic spaces. These plans also leave options open for the Van Wezel, though it will likely be repurposed in some way. Additionally, both plans leave ample green space in the west and southwest areas for “adventure playspaces”—highly engineered open-air parks that emphasize connectivity with nature.

One area where the community and the designers disagree lies in the possibility of a waterfront drive. Respondents expressed concern over the presence of streets and resulting traffic, but Ford and the rest are “holding steady” on that point. Access remains king, she says, and a leisurely driving route—nothing high-speed—can help avoid inactivated areas and the “undesirable activities” they often contain.

But that’s where the plans—known as The Bridge and Canal District—begin to diverge, and Sasaki and SBPO want more input from the locals.

The Bridge calls for a performance arts hall spanning the canal, which keeps the current boat ramp where it is, in turn pushing dining to the south side of the 10th Street canal. An outdoor amphitheater takes the southwest corner of the Bayfront, with the Van Wezel being repurposed into the design. Canal District moves that performance arts hall south of the waterway, and migrates the boat ramp north, freeing the canal from utilitarian use and creating a wraparound dining district. For iconic architecture, the plan imagines a pedestrian bridge beginning at an elevated position in the north and ramping down over the canal to end at a sea-level pier jutting out above the water, all flanking a larger outdoor amphitheater.

Before moving forward with either, SBPO and Sasaki are asking for another round of community input by launching another survey. Open through 11:59pm, Wednesday, May 30, those interested can access the website below, peruse the plans and cast their vote as planning continues. “We’re facilitating this community conversation and reacting to what we hear,” says Waddill. “It’s important that we hear your voices, and that we continue to hear your voices.”

Pictured: Renderings of both The Bridge and Canal District plans. Images courtesy of SBPO and Sasaki.

The Bay Master Plan Survey

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