By Stan Zimmerman
Condos want to join the DID
Up to now the Downtown Improvement District is composed of owners of commercial property within a defined district. But in September five condominiums knocked on their door and asked to be let in too.
Ron Rayevich is chairman of the residential portion of the Plaza at Five Points. He said his constituents are ready to join, pay a one-half mil surcharge on their property taxes, and hope the money could pay for higher nighttime security downtown. “We’ve got $40 million in residential property values in the Plaza. We don’t want people throwing up on our front steps and bums hanging out in the lobby,” he said.
Before his request, the DID board heard crime statistics from the city police comparing the same periods in 2012 and 2013. Deputy Police Chief Steve Moyers said, “It looks like about a four percent downward trend.”
The other condos interested in paying more taxes to get better security are the Orange Blossom, 1350 Main, 50 Central, 100 Central and the Plaza.
DID Member Tom Manaiusa said, “This is big for the DID. Residential property owners have not had representation.”
Work resumes on LS 87
Look for renewed activity in Lukewood Park, as a new construction firm picks up the pieces after another firm walked off the job. The multi-million dollar project is trying to create a new lift station to handle about one-third of the city’s sewage.
The old station repeatedly failed, dumping untold volumes into Hudson Bayou and onward into the bay. The plan was to “micro-tunnel” under the bayou, and even use a “reverse syphon” to maintain the gravity-fed nature of the city’s utility.
However the first contractor – depending on which lawyers you believe – either botched the project or the city’s instructions were unclear. A new firm is aboard, starting off by verifying information above and below ground before starting up the construction.
So far the city has $8 million sunk in the project. Lukewood Park is immediately south of the junction of U.S. 41 and U.S. 301 near the old Sarasota High School Building
SHS marks its first century
Speaking of the city’s oldest high school, Sarasota High is celebrating its 100th year in 2013. The first class at the school started in 1913.
The gothic school building on U.S. 41 is no longer used for instruction. It will become the Sarasota Museum of Modern Art. In addition to galleries, the classrooms will be put back to work teaching artists and would-be artists how to improve their talents.
Hospital tower is open
After years of design and construction, Sarasota Memorial’s Courtyard Tower is open for healing. The building is nine stories tall, and cost $186 million. It includes cardiac and orthopedic units, labor and delivery facilities and mother/baby suites. And there is a 33-room neonatal intensive care unit on the fifth floor.
The state-of-the art building is hurricane-resistant, and is designed to be energy efficient. It is the new entrance to the hospital, with a two-story lobby with floor-to-ceiling windows.
The new facility replaces some of the oldest areas in the hospital. A walk-over at the ninth floor provides access between the old hospital and the new tower. Seventy percent of the patient rooms in the new building are private.
Sarasota scores world championship
With the injection of $20 million in public money, the old borrow pit south of University Parkway is now an elite rowing facility. And soon to be the site of a world championship.
In 2017 athletes from across the world will gather at the old borrow pit to vie for international gold. The decision was made by the International Federation of Rowing Associations at a meeting in Seoul, South Korea.
The Benderson Rowing Facility was kick started with a $1 million grant from the Benderson Development Corp., which is developing University Town Center with a hotel on the north (Manatee) side of University Parkway.
BRT is dead
Sarasota’s plans for a Bus Rapid Transit system are at a dead end. County Commissioners decided even the first step was too expensive and killed the plan.
The system would have run buses 10 or 15 minutes apart from the airport to downtown. Using a priority signal system, and stops only a quarter-mile apart, the BRT would service tourists, students at three colleges and residents of north Sarasota.
The county was planning on huge federal support for the effort. But a mis-step in early planning tacked between $700,000 and $850,000 to change an earlier decision. Originally the BRT would have used dedicated right-of-way along the all-but-abandoned Gulfcoast Seminole Railway right of way. That was the original submission.
But it was later decided a route up and down U.S. 41 would be better. But to make the swap, the county would have to pay for a re-analysis of feasibility. With only $446,000 set aside for the re-work, commissioners instead decided to scrap the entire idea.