Placemaking and Possibilities for All Generations

Guest Correspondence

Photo: Lofts on Lemon groundbreaking. Image courtesy City of Sarasota.

The places we call home hold value far beyond any ZIP code or pin on Google Maps. Our front doors are the starting line for the personal relationships, job opportunities and time spent with others that make up our quality of life. And yet, the hindering realities of affordability in our community often force many families to compromise on their own realms of possibility – be it long commutes or insurmountable rent – in favor of building a better life for their children. The dignity in living and thriving where you work should be attainable by all.

One such solution begins with affordable and workforce housing. However, Sarasota’s deep-rooted history of addressing affordable housing requires a mindset that puts the whole family first and foremost for the betterment of the whole community. Approaching this issue through a two-generation lens brings about tremendous opportunities that give families of all shapes, ages and sizes the stability necessary to create a new world of possibilities.

When it comes to social investments of this scale and duration, collaboration across sectors as well as innovation outside the realm of traditional grantmaking are exactly what’s needed.

Last summer, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s board of directors approved a capstone investment of $2 million to support Lofts on Lemon, a 128-unit affordable and workforce housing development led by the Sarasota Housing Authority located in downtown Sarasota’s Rosemary District. Designed with both financial and social returns such as education and career development in mind, our foundation’s investment in Lofts on Lemon is an investment in families with limited assets for the long-term, starting with the very roof over their heads.

Though the complex isn’t expected to be completed until 2022, several weeks ago I had the privilege of joining city officials, philanthropists, foundations, businesses and other community-minded organizations to celebrate the groundbreaking of what will eventually become Lofts on Lemon. With my shovel in hand, I imagined what this project would mean for the 76 other families struggling to earn just 60% of Sarasota’s median income. Or the 52 “hometown heroes” – teachers, healthcare workers, and first responders – who will later claim this address as their own, which our colleagues at the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation have been emphatic about supporting as part of this project.

Beyond budgets and dollar signs, those who will call Lofts on Lemon home will be able to improve their financial stability and ensure that most basic of human needs: security and safety. Mothers, fathers and caretakers who have long worried over where they will live or if they can afford to pay next month’s rent will finally have the resources to direct their energy toward building new dreams, for themselves and their children. That emotional stability, that respite to breath and focus on what – and who – truly matters, is invaluable.

As Lofts on Lemon reveals to us, there is real promise and possibility in placemaking. But one groundbreaking, one shovel in the ground is akin to only unlocking the front door. It is up to each of us to create and sustain these spaces, to perpetuate cycles of opportunity and wellbeing, and to do so together, across sectors, across geographies. And for the future residents, it’s about welcoming them home.

Roxie Jerde is President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Photo: Lofts on Lemon groundbreaking. Image courtesy City of Sarasota.

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