Up & Down the Trail

| May 1, 2017

Orioles attendance second highest

The weather is heating up, and Spring Training season has come and left Sarasota. But 2017 was a good season for the Orioles, which have played seven in the renovated Ed Smith Stadium.

The Orioles attracted a total of 119,742 fans for 17 home games in Sarasota — the second-highest spring attendance in club history behind only the 120,455 total set in 2013. The high point for the Orioles, according to TCPalm newspaper, was a matchup against the Minnesota Twins at Ed Smith Stadium before a crowd of 8,171. The Orioles had six consecutive sellouts from March 16 to March 27, helping the team to finish among the best in attendance in the Grapefruit League this spring.

Across the Sunshine State, spring training entertained more than 1.5 million fans. For the 15th time in 18 years, Florida Spring Training Baseball total attendance surpassed the 1.5 million mark, according to figures from the Florida Sports Foundation. Over the course of those 18 years, since 2000, over 28 million fans have attended Major League Baseball Spring Training Games in Florida.

Sprouts opens

A new grocery store that bills itself as an indoor farmer’s market has opened a store on South Tamiami Trail, in Pelican Plaza, right across the street from the Westfield Sarasota Square Mall.

Sprouts Farmers Market is best known for affordable prices and an assortment of natural and organic foods. The stores are inspired by traditional farmers markets, yet are entirely indoors. Sprouts Farmers Markets are usually about half the size of a Publix store, and their prices are considerably cheaper than Whole Foods’ market.

Sprouts Farmers Market is a popular growing retail store and plans to open 11 new locations in the second quarter of 2017. Sprouts will open a total of 35 stores in 2017. The new South-Sarasota store was estimated to bring more than 100 career opportunities to its neighborhood.

City Center building sells

Large commercial property transactions are heating up downtown. In the latest sale, A North Carolina based firm has acquired the 13-story Sarasota City Center office tower on Main Street for $36.5 million, making it the third major office sale in downtown Sarasota over the past year. Durham, N.C.-based investment firm The Dilweg Companys. is planning to invest $4 million to enhance the 245,293-square-foot building’s fitness center, hallways, bathrooms, lobby and courtyard in the wake of its purchase.

Dilweg also plans to create a conference facility and a tenant social space inside the 1819 Main St. building. The 28-year-old tower is occupied by financial firms Merrill Lynch, UBS and Wells Fargo, Boar’s Head Provisions Co., among and other tenants.

City Commission runoff election to be held May 9

Two at-large City Commission seats will be decided this month.

Eight candidates originally ran for the two seats. In March’s nonpartisan primary, Jennifer Ahearn-Koch, Hagen Brody, and Martin Hyde all advanced to the runoff city election to be held May 9. Ahearn-Koch was the top vote-getter in March, with 2,700 votes cast for her. Turnout in the election was about 19 percent of eligible voters. Lone incumbent Susan Chapman narrowly missed the top three, only 52 votes behind Hyde.

Neighborhood leader Ahearn-Koch is confounder of the grassroots slow growth STOP!; was a Sarasota Planning Board member 2009 to 2015; and is president of Tahiti Park Neighborhood Association.

Brody, an attorney, was a state prosecutor from 2012 to 2016; and a Sarasota Teen Court and Booker High School Mock Trial Team volunteer.

Hyde, a businessman, is president of Gulf Business Systems.

City Commission approves DeMarcay construction

The city has approved the DeMarcay on Palm, removing a requirement that would have forced the developer to use precast construction for a portion of the building in an attempt to minimize construction impacts.

On April 17, the City Commission in a 4-1 vote removed the requirement, and the developer is now free to use whatever construction method it choses to build the project, an 18-story, 39-unit condominium.

In addition to the construction method, the project was controversial because of the Palm-Avenue site’s historic nature. A historic 1920s building was developed on the site by Owen Burns.

Back in 2006, the city included the provision in an attempt to minimize the impacts of the construction. At the time, a representative for the developer said precast construction would achieve that goal. But now a new developer has convinced the commission that precast construction would actually be more time-consuming and dangerous than post-tension construction, the standard technique for building high-rises in Sarasota.

222 apartments pitched for Ringling Plaza

A West Palm developer has submitted plans to build a 222-unit apartment complex on the site of the Ringling Shopping Center, where a debate has been simmering over how to redevelop the property.

The Richman Group of Florida submitted preliminary plans for the mixed-use project late last week to redevelop the 9.7-acre property at the center of a long legal battle over a once-planned Walmart on Ringling Boulevard just outside downtown. The Richman Group of Florida, listed as the contract purchaser for the property on a city development application, plans to construct a four-story multifamily building on the 9.7-acre site at 2260 Ringling Blvd. The plans also include a commercial segment, though the project would mainly be a residential project.

The proposal comes after a year-long conversation between the city and the current property owner, the Doyle Family Trust, regarding the future of the property, which once housed the now-closed Publix.

County Commissioners approve incentive grant

Sarasota County commissioners last month approved a $144,000 jobs performance-based incentive package to lure a digital-marketing company to relocate to Sarasota.

On April 3, four of the Sarasota County commissioners approved an offer of $144,000 — which equates to $20,000 apiece for 72 jobs — to enable county staff and the Economic Development Corp. (EDC) of Sarasota County to continue negotiations with a digital technology firm interested in relocating to the county.

The company isn’t named in public documents, and the financial agreement is listed under the codename Project Polish. The “Project Polish” company “has recently signed a long term contract with the largest floor manufacturer in the world, to supply websites and digital marketing services to 2,500 of [the manufacturer’s] top flooring retailers.” As a result, the memo continued, the company needs to hire more staff and move out of its current location.

County named one of best workplaces for commuters

Sarasota County Government has been named to the 2017 List of Best Workplaces for Commuters by a Tampa-based organization that ranks the best workplaces for commuters across the nation.

The honor was awarded for the county’s “exceptional employee-provided commuter benefits,” the county has announced.

“Sarasota County Government is on the cutting edge of a national movement,” said Julie Bond, program manager for Best Workplaces for Commuters, in a news release. “They have listened to their employees’ challenges with traffic flow and their concerns over reducing emissions. By offering a range of commuter benefits, such as subsiding bus fares, carpooling and access to Emergency Ride Home programs,” she continued in the release, “Sarasota County gives its employees the support they need to get to and from work so they can be at their best. These benefits are good for the organization and its employees.”

Sarasota County is among 231 employers in the United States to receive this award, the Best Workplaces for Commuters website points out. The membership program is based in Tampa, according to the organization’s website.

“April is Earth Month, so receiving this recognition now is perfect timing to recognize the county for promoting green commuting efforts and sustainable transportation options throughout the year,” said Sarasota County Administrator Tom Harmer in the release.

Measuring rising seas

Last month, the city of Sarasota installed an eight-foot high marker on Lido Beach bearing facts about the projected sea level rise at the beach over time, stating which buildings will be underwater as levels rise and noting what people can do lessen the impacts. The long, white pole, with blue wrapping on all sides, greets visitors at the end of the wooden walkway by the northern edge of the public beach.

Despite the positive response from initial onlookers, the pole reflects some frightening statistics. In less than 15 years, by 2030, sea levels are expected to rise between 1.2 to 7.2 inches. Only 30 years later, in 2060, sea levels could rise as much as 0.4 to 2.4 feet. To put that in context, the marker states that at two feet, 30 percent of St. Armands Circle and South Lido Beach would be underwater. At 3 feet, that would include access to Mote Marine and Ken Thompson Park, as well as the intersection at Gulf Stream and U.S. 41, which the pole notes is a “major evacuation route.”

But the installation is not all doom and gloom. On one side of the marker is a list dedicated to how the public can help. Some of the offerings include calculating one’s carbon footprint online, replacing appliances with energy efficient models, and wasting less food. The impetus for the markers came from City Manager Tom Barwin, who noticed a similar project while walking along Hallandale Beach in Broward County during a conference last year. Public education on sea level rise is particularly important in an area like Sarasota, where residents are threatened by the phenomenon’s effects, he said. Meanwhile, in North Broward County, a resident there and geoscientist has recently published a doctoral dissertation that said residents living in huge swaths of low-lying land there underestimated their vulnerability.

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