By Paul Roat
A Siesta Key businessman is branching out into Downtown Sarasota. Unfortunately for Chris Brown, the city commission has cut off one of the limbs on his expanding enterprises.
Brown, who has bought the former Patrick’s Restaurant at Five Points and two adjacent businesses, presented the commission with a proposal to create a New Orleans-styled building with a porch-like structure above the sidewalk for diners. “The Galleries at Five Points” would allow patrons to have a panoramic view of the heart of the city, he proposed.
No, city commissioners said. His unprecedented approach of making his pitch first to the commission rather than parading his plan through the usual path of other city departments and boards apparently irked some officials. Other concerns voiced included the aesthetics of his building plan juxtaposed with other architectural themes on Main Street.
Commissioners also voiced obstruction problems created by columns on the sidewalks to support the galleries, as well as potential noise generated by al fresco diners within the keen earshot of nearby condominium.
Brown owns the Beach Club and Hub Baja Grill in Siesta Village, as well as other properties on Main Street.
Vice Mayor Willie Shaw stated loud and clear that there shall be no homeless shelter built in District 1, his city commission district in northern Sarasota.
Shaw blasted a city homeless consultant, Richard Marbut, for offering his proposals to help get homeless men and women off Sarasota streets and alleys to the media rather than to the officials who are paying his $100,000 fee.
Marbut is scheduled to come before the city commission sometime this month to offer his proposals. Media reports have indicated he favors some massive overnight facility for those living on the streets, located near existing caregiving facilities.
All those facilities, by the way, are in North Sarasota.
“Consultant Richard Marbut has said a homeless facility should be close to the services that are needed, which is District 1,” Shaw said. “He has said we must get beyond Not In My Back Yard.
“No one in District 1 has had any input. I’m concerned that the process is not transparent and it is not inclusive to the community that is being impacted.
“North Sarasota bears the distinction of having the highest crime rate in Sarasota.
“North Sarasota bears the distinction of having the highest unemployment rate in Sarasota.
“North Sarasota has borne the homeless as an issue.
“No homeless facility should be placed in District 1, and I hope my constituents support my stance. The homeless issue is a Sarasota issue. It is a regional issue, and we should not have a concentration of poverty in District 1.”
“I am 100 percent opposed to the City of Sarasota and the city taxpayers taking on the issue of the homeless within the city boundaries,” said Marilyn Kirkwood. “It is a regional problem. We have to take care of our own people first. It is unfair to place [this regional facility] financial burden on city taxpayers.
Recent census data provided by the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness indicated there were 1,460 homeless people in Sarasota County. There are less than one-quarter of that number of beds available for the homeless. Men outnumber women by a 3-to-1 ratio, and almost all of the homeless are found in northern Sarasota County, with a large percentage visiting the city from Manatee County and even Arcadia.
The arts capital of Florida, it seems, is also a mecca for the homeless.