Bayfront 20:20 stakeholders tour the waterfront

More than 60 representatives from Sarasota Bayfront 20:20’s 39 stakeholder organizations got sweaty Friday morning, as they met up for a special walking tour of a major chunk of the bayfront land the organization is hoping to see redeveloped. The walk introduced supporters to many of the opportunities and challenges that the city faces as it plots what to do with the land, and was intended to give those involved a granular view of the property.

Stakeholders gathered for a light breakfast on the back patio of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, then walked south around the former home of G. Wiz, where Bayfront 20:20 Volunteer Coordinator Michael Klauber discussed how city zoning and Federal Emergency Management Agency and other technical rules affect possibilities for redevelopment. “There are different regulations for different parts of the city-owned 42 acres on the bayfront,” Klauber emphasized.

The tour then continued around the Sarasota Garden Club and north to the Sarasota Orchestra, where Orchestra President and CEO Joseph McKenna spoke about how the organization has run out of room. The Orchestra cannot hire any additional staff and can’t book any more shows, he pointed out. “We all share the desire to have something great for our community,” he said.

After the group walked past and viewed Art Center Sarasota and the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium, Daniel Jittu introduced participants to the sport of lawn bowling, showing off the facilities of the Historic Sarasota Lawn Bowling Club, which sits near the intersection of U.S. 41 and 10th Street. He spoke about the history of the club, as well as the lawn bowling’s international popularity and how the club hopes to draw national sports media attention by hosting both the 2016 and 2017 US Open Championships.

The tour then concluded with a walk through the 10th Street boat launch and back along the bayfront to the Van Wezel. The legwork energized supporters, who discussed different possibilities for the various portions of the land, as well as the work ahead.

The city is currently compiling data on the site, researching everything from environmental sensitivities to traffic patterns and historical designations. But while the city completes its research, it’s important to keep in mind the incredible opportunity at hand, an opportunity that’s all the more obvious when you stretch your legs and take a close look at what’s right in front of you. That’s exactly what happened Friday.