More than 35 people from Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 stakeholder organizations (wearing buttons in support of the organization) attended the July 18 Sarasota City Commission meeting to hear an update from Michael Klauber, Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 volunteer chairman, and Jon Thaxton, senior vice president for community investment at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. The presentation to Sarasota City Commissioners, including Mayor Willie Charles Shaw, Vice Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie, Suzanne Atwell, Susan Chapman and Liz Alpert, focused on the organization’s progress and the details of a new Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization (SBPO).
Michael outlined the important journey and one rarely seen in Sarasota’s community history. When the journey is complete, the city-owned 42 bayfront acres will become a reality of a vision that the community supported through the creation of six powerful, guiding principles.
“First and foremost, the creation of a great public space will celebrate our beautiful bay,” said Michael. “It is our hope that we will achieve a cultural center that heightens the cultural brand of our city, and that families will be engaged by a destination that is welcoming and safe. We will also celebrate the implementation of a successful master plan.”
The last time Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 updated the commission was February 2016. Since that time, a Framework Team has spent the past months detailing the organizational structure of the SBPO, as the entity that will conduct the master planning of the site.
For nearly three years, Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 has worked to build a coalition and consensus. Now, 53 organizations have adopted the Vision and Guiding Principles. The newest stakeholder is the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation. The hope is that this number will only continue to grow.
Sarasota Bayfront has held and hosted more than 200 meetings across the community for inclusion and transparency, and stakeholders have been updated on each step along the way. The most recent meeting was held June 29 with stakeholders, and on July 12 and 13, a delegation of 13, including City of Sarasota Manager Tom Barwin and Sarasota City Commissioner Susan Chapman, traveled to Carmel, Ind. The group heard from Mayor James Brainard and other city officials on their redevelopment projects and the planning, financing and construction of their performing arts facilities.
“Our community’s message is clear,” said Michael. “Create a destination that furthers our cultural vitality with space for recreation that also allows educational opportunities to blossom. Green space for families alike will make this the centerpiece of our community, and the connectivity to our neighborhoods will illustrate that our great city is a tapestry of unique and vibrant neighborhoods.”
After the February update meeting, Debra Jacobs from the Patterson Foundation stepped forward by providing an experienced facilitator and world-class business consultant, Dr. Richard Hays, to start the planning for the planning organization.
As part of this, a small group of committed individuals with diverse backgrounds and expertise was invited to work with Michael and Richard to help develop the structure for a successful SBPO. Individuals who make up this group include Jon Thaxton, Shaun Merriman, Joe McKenna and Bob Easterle.
The Framework Team has worked for the last 12 weeks to create a draft structure for a SBPO, which will most likely be a 501(c)(4) community organization with up to nine members. This SBPO will have one designated member from the City of Sarasota as part of the Board.
The SBPO will be responsible for producing the master plan for the 42 acres based upon the community’s Guiding Principles. The SBPO will hire or contract with a quality project manager and contract with a national planning firm. This group will also call upon an important Resource Team for input and information throughout the process – including transportation, zoning and other various issues.
Board members for SBPO will be recruited. On May 16, Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 met with leaders of the six major foundations in Sarasota County, including Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Patterson Foundation, Barancik Foundation, Selby Foundation and Virginia Toulmin Foundation. These foundations offered suggestions on criteria for potential candidates for the SBPO board.
The Resource Team is a key element in the organization of the SBPO. Membership on the Resource Team will be dynamic. Representatives will include Sarasota Bayfront 20:20, Van Wezel, Van Wezel Foundation, Sarasota Orchestra, Art Center Sarasota, Sarasota Garden Club, Sarasota Lawn Bowling Club and CCNA – along with specialized city staff, city advisory boards and others whose expertise will be needed at different times to help produce the best outcome.
The SBPO will be responsible for managing an approximate budget of $2.5 million, which will be necessary to achieve a comprehensive master plan. The funds will be raised through the private sector, keeping this a true citizen planning process. The goal is to complete a master plan in 18 months after the establishment of the SBPO.
Through this entire process, it is the intent of Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 to continue as a strong volunteer community organization and to communicate with all stakeholders on this citizen-driven initiative.
“This is bigger than all of us,” said Suzanne Atwell, a Sarasota City Commissioner. “This is stunning – the people that have gotten on board. This is probably the most important legacy land-use decision we will all make. This reinvestment on our bayfront begins right now.”