Up & Down the Trail

| October 1, 2016

Paid parking — it’s back.

Parking meters are coming back. Four years after the city of Sarasota’s last brief attempt to implement a paid parking plan downtown, the City Commission approved a plan to install meters on 468 parking spaces on Main Street, Palm Avenue and part of Ringling Boulevard. The meters will be installed in the next year.

The City Commission endorsed the plan at a meeting Sept. 6, citing expected improvements to downtown traffic flow, more availability for spaces on those main arteries and increased parking revenue as the main reasons for supporting the idea.

Several downtown business owners and residents, however, remain opposed to the proposal. Some of those opponents spoke to the City Commission and restated many of the concerns that killed the previous program in 2012 — that paid parking will deter shoppers and diners and could exacerbate problems with the chronic homeless downtown. As early as this summer, downtown merchants had already voiced displeasure with a preliminary proposal to phase in parking, but a city parking advisory committee remained committed to presenting a plan for paid parking to the commission.

As proposed, the meters would be operational from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Rates would start at 10 cents for 6 minutes, and 25 cents for 15 minutes, rising to $2 for the first two hours. For parking three hours and longer, the rate would increase $1 each hour. The proposal is the first phase of a downtown paid parking plan designed by city Parking Director Mark Lyons.

Sarasota getting another luxury condo

This fall, Golden Gate Point Ventures plans to break ground on a luxury condo project proposed for the 22-acre peninsula near downtown Sarasota.

The “Pearl” includes a rooftop patio, pool and spa, cabanas, and barbecue area. The units will start at $1.6 million, according to a news release. The pet-friendly condominium will feature eight units in a five story-building on the east side of Golden Gate Point, replacing three buildings constructed in the 1960s. The Pearl, at 609 Golden Gate Point, is situated in the middle portion of the peninsula, an area that has seen a redevelopment trend. Premier Sotheby’s International Realty will market the 2,750-square-foot residences. The developer bought the 14,400-square-foot property for nearly $2 million back in March.

FDOT considers U.S. 41 roundabout

Is one of the first planned roundabouts for U.S. 41 going to happen soon? The Florida Department of Transportation has begun a study that will look into that question. The study will take 18 months to complete, and in the meantime, resurfacing of U.S. 41 still is planned in downtown Sarasota starting this fall.

The FDOT has notified the City of Sarasota that it expects to conduct a public meeting this fall regarding plans to improve the intersection of Gulfstream Avenue and U.S. 41 in downtown Sarasota. The study will consider several options for improvements — including the potential for constructing a roundabout at the intersection. A representative with the state agency sent an email on Aug. 16 to city staff, saying the state agency also anticipates holding a public hearing on the project in the fall of 2017. In the meantime staff is beginning a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study for the improvements.

That PD&E study will take about 18 months to complete, and design plans for the preferred, chosen alternative should be completed by 2019.

The FDOT is evaluating the intersection at US 41 and Gulfstream Avenue to improve pedestrian and bicycle connectivity between the City of Sarasota’s Downtown Central Business District and the Bayfront area, while improving vehicular traffic flow and operations. Options under consideration include a roundabout and improvements to the existing signalized intersection. This study will determine the conceptual design of the preferred intersection alternative.

The City of Sarasota also is continuing its planning for proposed roundabouts on U.S. 41, at the 10th and 14th street intersections.

Coral reef project underway

Mote Marine Laboratory and The Nature Conservancy have partnered on an initiative that the two organizations hope will enable coral restoration at unprecedented scales throughout the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. The group hopes to plant one million corals across the region’s reefs.

The organizations also plan to share science-based coral restoration and conservation practices among U.S. and international Caribbean partners and create necessary operations, such as coral gene banks, which preserve genetically diverse coral tissue and help researchers find strains resilient to environmental change. An agreement last month officially starts an ongoing, one-year planning and preparation agreement, which will include growing 50,000 coral fragments.

Mote said that coral reef systems help provide shoreline resiliency that protects coastal communities and creates healthy oceans. Ocean acidification, increasing ocean temperatures as a result of climate change, overfishing, unplanned coastal development and other factors including waste water have damaged or decimated reefs around the world.

USF Sarasota-Manatee growing

The University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee's enrollment has reached a new record, with 2,071 students. That’s an increase of 1.6 percent over last year. The fall enrollment surpassed last fall's record of 2,038 students, the school announced in a media release.

Undergraduate enrollment rose 2.2 percent and graduate enrollment 4 percent over the fall of 2015. Summer and fall freshman enrollments jumped from 88 to 103 students this year. Director of Admissions Andrew Telatovich cited several factors for the gains — from the ongoing popularity of the University’s biology program to its new Bridge-to-Engineering program. In the Sarasota-Manatee region, the University of South Florida is not the only college seeing growth. More than over 13,000 students are spread out between New College of Florida, Ringling College of Art and Design, State College of Florida and USFSM.

Players ejected in high school football matchup

Things on the football field got tense during a post- Storm Hermine matchup between Sarasota High School and Booker High School.

Most Friday night high school football games were canceled Sept. 2 as a result of the storm, aside from the Sarasota High School vs. Booker High School game. However, the action on the field took a sour turn fast, according to a report by local ABC 7 Suncoast news.

Sarasota was off to a big start and big lead — and never looked back. Soon, frustrations boiled over as a bench-clearing brawl broke out on the field, according to reporting and a video posted by ABC 7. By the end of the first quarter, seven players were ejected from the game. Coaches and officials were able to keep the on-field fight from getting worse. But additional disciplinary action may follow. The FHSAA will be looking into the case, and more information will be released as it becomes available.

Woman struck by lightning

A woman died after being struck by lightning in Sarasota on Aug. 26. Sarasota County authorities confirmed that the 50-year-old woman died from her injuries after being hit by lightning while on the 2500 block of Cocoanut Avenue.

Authorities said she was in a gazebo at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park when she was struck and a small fire was extinguished in the gazebo. Fontilla Spann was under a pavilion during a storm Friday when she was struck and killed by lightning. The singed clothes left behind indicating a positive lightning strike, a rare but deadly type known to carry a current near one billion volts, according to a news report from local ABC7 Sarasota.

Another downtown hotel pitched

A Maryland hotel representative has filed preliminary plans for a 118-room hotel on Fruitville Road — the latest in a series of hotels planned for downtown. Last month, Nancy Vu submitted an application for a meeting with the city’s Development Review Committee for the hotel project on a 0.67-acre site between Central and Cocoanut avenues. The site, at 1351 and 1365 Fruitville Road, is across the street from where Jebco Ventures intends to build a 163-room Hampton Inn & Suites. Nearly 1,300 new hotel rooms have been proposed for the heart of the city.

Hotel Indigo changes owners

Just to the north, the Rosemary District’s Hotel Indigo has changed hands. Innisfree Hotels has purchased the hotel, located at 1223 Boulevard of the Arts.

Luxury cosmetics retailer coming downtown

A new store in coming to downtown: Bluemercury, a Washington, D.C.-based luxury cosmetics retailer, is slated to move into a portion of vacant space at the intersection of Main Street and Lemon Avenue.

The store will fill half of the space that was previously occupied by longtime tenant Brooks Brothers, which left this summer.

The storefront has been divided into two spaces for two tenants. A second lessee, whose entrance will be next to Pastry Art, has not been secured. According to Bluemercury’s website, the retailer is a leading luxury beauty retailer offering the best cosmetics, skin care, makeup, perfume, hair, and bath and body in its chain of stores, and online.

The decision for Bluemercury to locate downtown can be taken as a good indication in the health of the retail district. Bluemercury chain includes 71 locations throughout the U.S., located primarily in upscale shopping districts. In February of 2015, Bluemercury which was founded in 1999, was acquired by Macy’s Inc. for $210 million. The company remains headquartered in Washington, D.C.

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