Welcome back! Our first post-summer stakeholder meeting was full of exciting news, updates and information. If you missed it, here is a recap.

Since we embarked on this journey in October 2013, Bayfront 20:20 has been laser-focused on one goal – to engage the community in this process. We are very proud to now have 45 organizations committed to this important conversation. Since our last formal meeting, three additional community groups voted to join as Stakeholders: Gillespie Neighborhood Association, The Ringling Museum and the Sarasota Young Professionals Group.

As you can imagine, any plans for the Bayfront start with a technical understanding of the city-owned 42 acres. This summer, we worked alongside our City of Sarasota partners to keep pace with the fall deadline to present our next stage of technical findings regarding Bayfront redevelopment back to you — the stakeholders, the community at large, and our elected officials.

David Smith, AICP, General Manager, Neighborhood & Development Services Department at the City of Sarasota revealed the details of that technical report at our stakeholder meeting on September 9, 2015. We are extremely thankful to David and Ryan Chapdelain with the City for their dedicated work on this project. Click here to read the full report.

Additionally, as you may know, on June 11-13, 2015, 18 people traveled to Kansas City to learn from a group of passionate community leaders who have been through something very similar to what we are about to embark upon. Representatives from the Van Wezel Foundation, The Van Wezel, The Sarasota Orchestra, The Sarasota Ballet, Visit Sarasota County and the Sarasota Community Foundation heard first hand about the process Kansas City leaders went through in uniting their community to achieve extraordinary outcomes.

 The highlight was certainly the visit to the 285,000 square foot, four-year-old Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Located in the once dilapidated Crossroads Arts District, the hall is home to three resident arts organizations and welcomes another 70 community arts groups and 100 private events annually.

We had the opportunity to hear the story of their journey from the deeply committed Julia Irene Kauffman herself and some of the original members of the team that made the dream a reality. Here are some key takeaways from their experience: 

  • The importance of a clear vision, which is embraced by the community.
  • The ability to work together for common good.
  • When the arts organizations work together, the entire community benefits.
  • It takes a small, focused Board to manage a complex development. They spent time studying and visiting other projects to learn about their successes and failures.
  • Even with a major donor, there must be a solid plan to engage the broader philanthropic community and the municipal/public entities. Financially sustainable projects enjoy success because community ownership is the cornerstone.

We also had a behind-the-scenes tour of the 1914 Union Station, which by 1989 had closed and fallen into ruin after several failed redevelopment efforts. In 1996, voters in five counties (three in Missouri and two in Kansas) approved a first of its kind, bi-state sales tax to provide $118 million for the restoration of Union Station. The tax had a specific purpose and a defined, short duration. It could only be used for the restoration of Union Station and would expire once it generated $118 million. They began collecting the tax in 1997 and it ended in the first quarter of 2002.

After some challenges in the early years of the operation of Union Station, it is now a signature landmark and important civic asset. Union Station, a signature icon in the city, receives no public funding and its current operating costs are funded by private donors, grants, commercial space leases, facility rentals, general admission and theater ticketing.

Perhaps our final take-away from the trip was that no two projects are the same with one exception: Community collaboration and willingness to compromise is at the core of each great public space.

And finally, here are some new updates: We have raised $70,000 towards our goal of $155,000 for our work over the summer and fall. Also, mark your calendar for our next critical meeting on September 30, 2015 at 4pm at the Sarasota Orchestra where we hope to hear some preliminary information from the cultural assessments now underway. Additionally our work on exploring governance models and financing is in its early stages with our consultants, HR&A.

See you soon!