Update: Stakeholders meet during focus groups

Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 recently held four stakeholder focus groups – two on October 21 and two on October 22 – to garner thoughts, suggestions and questions from business and community leaders throughout Sarasota.

Focus group participants included Debbie Ahmari, Kathy Kelley Ohlrich, Andy Papineau, Lou Costa, Dan Deleo, Art Levin, Patrick Gannon, Kevin Cooper, Jewell Emswiller, Jim Shirley, Dr. Kosten, Carol Hirschburg, Kristina Skepton, Thomas Greaney, David Conway, Courtney Dillman, Lisa Berger, Ramsey Frangie, Georgia Court, Patricia Vandenberg, Jennifer Ahern-Koch and Jennifer Rominiecki, among others.

Each focus group began with a welcoming statement from Michael Klauber, the volunteer chair of Sarasota Bayfront 20:20. Michael and Candace Damon of HR&A Advisors, a company that provides strategic advisory services for some of the most complex mixed-use, neighborhood, downtown, campus and regional development projects, provided each group with a brief history on how Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 got started almost two years ago. Candace noted that there are four pieces in play in order to reach our goal: facilities planning, site planning, communication with the community and about the site and fundraising. The groups were asked for their views and opinions how to achieve goals of the various facilities on site. How do we get there?

Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 received lots of great input from its stakeholders, including:

  • The need to create milestones for the City of Sarasota Commissioners to sign off on
  • The need for diversity in the project and emphasis on family
  • The need to think where this community will be in 100 years
  • The need to have something on the Bayfront that is not already happening in the community


Fundraising was also a hot topic during the focus groups. Some wanted information on the fundraising portion and how monies were spent in Kansas City. Klauber answered that each arts organization paid their way with the help of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, who provided grants to the arts organizations that attended and others paid their own way.

Do we have a goal at how much money we want to raise? Candace pointed out that it does not cost much for the design but is costly for community outreach and coordination among all of the groups with interests in the bayfront. She recommended having enough funds to get through 35 percent of the design, which should be at least $500,000 – $1,000,000. Candace believe the rest should come from civic leadership.

Ground Rules

It was also recommended that it will be necessary for the community to set some ground rules as we enter the planning process. Candace laid out three uses of the funds: design, capital construction and operations.

The Next Phase

Klauber commented that during the next phase, we will need to think about the design plan for the site. Klauber informed the group that the Sarasota Orchestra interviewed up to nine groups to get their input on their needs. The Sarasota Orchestra and the Van Wezel Foundation facility task forces have held joint meetings. He also noted that the group that everything that Bayfront 20:20 has done to get to this phase has been privately funded.

Focus group contributions offered options on how to move to next phase:

  • Solidify the ground rules
  • Use an urban planner
  • Find a land use attorney
  • Create an architectural team

Candace gave some parting thoughts and suggested the groups think about two things:

  • Facilities planning first then site planning
  • Landscape architect as part of an interdisciplinary design team

As Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 moves forward, we all agreed that we’re in this together. This is an effort by “us” and “we” as the stakeholders and the community as a whole continue to share ideas, thoughts and suggestions for the future of the bayfront.