By Roger Drouin
Siesta Key Beach’s new east concession building is being constructed 16-feet above the sand, to meet flood elevation requirements.
The structure will include a viewing deck for watching sunsets, offering what Sarasota County Public Works Project Manager Brad Gaubatz describes as a fabulous view.
In addition, the view looking up won’t be bad either, considering the building will bring an air of modern architecture to Siesta’s public beach.
The $21.5 million Siesta Beach Park Improvement Project, which is being constructed in phases, will also bring a second concession node, expanded restrooms, two pavilions, and shade canopies—all constructed in the same architectural vein. The Sarasota County project will also add a pedestrian esplanade and 143 additional parking spaces once work is complete, said Brad Gaubatz, Sarasota County Public Works Project Manager.
Gaubatz expects crews to wrap up phase two of work in February, and complete the entire project by the end of 2015. The project broke ground in January, and the first phase wrapped up this summer.
Sarasota-based Sweet Sparkman Architects is designing the structures.
“We divided the project into phases so we could keep the park open during the entire construction,” Gaubatz said.
Funding for the capital improvement project comes out of Sarasota County’s penny sales tax in the infrastructure surtax III and some Tourist Development Tax (TDT) funding. The beach will remain open through all phases of construction.
Phase one included building the tennis courts and maintenance building. The first phase also included building one parking lot near the tennis courts. This lot was created with a special kind of pervious concrete that will allow better stormwater drainage after heavy rains.
Phase two includes constructing two more parking lot areas, with extra parking spots open in time for the Crystal Classic sand sculpting competition in November.
“The contractor is working really hard to turn over part of the phase two parking lot for the Crystal Classic event,” Gaubatz told Siesta Sand. “A lot of guys are working really hard to get that done.”
One lot will also be made of pervious concrete. This phase also will complete the playground and picnic area, which will include two larger pavilions and several smaller shelters.
The biggest part of this phase, however, is the completion of the new east concession building. The new structure is already under construction. The goal is to finish the new concession area in phase two so the old one can be renovated in phase three. The east concession building will feature a handicap ramp that blends in with the structure and winds up through the seagrapes. The ramp “is a feature in and of itself,” Gaubatz said.
The two pavilions and shade canopies are designed to “tie in with the vocabulary of the new architecture on site,” Gaubatz added. They will be constructed of pre-cast concrete.
Phase three will consist mainly of finishing the partial demolition and remodeling of the existing concession stand, which will house sheriff’s and lifeguard offices and concessions. The historic section of the structure, built in the 1950s, will remain. The project will double the number of women’s restrooms at the “west node.”
The west parking lots will also be repaved with normal asphalt.
The majority of the parking will be reorganized to make it easier for beachgoers to walk through the lot. Instead of walking through the rows (between parked cars) beachgoers will be able to walk down the rows.
New amenities at Turtle Beach
In a second Sarasota County project, Turtle Beach’s public facilities will be receiving an upgrade. The $614,000 improvement project is slated to start in early 2015, and will take about six months to complete, Gaubatz said.
The improvements include: a new parking lot with 35 additional spaces; a new playground; and two new picnic shelters. The project features a kayak launch inside the inlet and close to parking. “People can walk their kayaks right in,” Gaubatz said. Other improvements include: LED lighting; sidewalks through the park; underground drainage, and a rain garden stormwater drainage area.
The county is working on potential plans to add a gazebo.
Turtle Beach renourishment in the works
Crews will pump additional sand onto two miles of South Siesta Key, including Turtle Beach.
An initial beach nourishment of the South Siesta Key Beach Area was completed in March, 2007. Erosion has progressed to the point where re-nourishment is needed, according to county officials.
The plan is to add sand during a forthcoming project to the same stretch of shoreline, including Turtle Beach in the center of the project limits. The northern end of the project stops 2,000 feet south of Point of Rocks, and the area run south to a tapering end, just south of the southern-most home on Siesta Key.
On Aug. 20, the County Commission discussed the estimated project costs and options to fund the project, including Tourist Development Tax, Municipal Services Benefit Unit (MSBU), commercial borrow, and state grant funding. “The county is still finalized an updated timeline for the project,” according to information provided by Sarasota County Media Relations Specialist Jason Bartolone.
Coastal Engineering firm Humiston and Moore Engineers, Inc. is the design and permitting consultant working to secure federal and state permits for the project. Suitable sand sources have been found eight to ten miles offshore, in the Gulf of Mexico, according to Bartolone.