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The City of Sarasota Looks to Liven Up Main Street

Written by on Saturday, March 30, 2024

You’ll be able to give your input at an event on April 2.

By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: Mar. 27, 2024

Host: Sarasota’s Main Street is already one of the more walkable thoroughfares here. Even so, the City of Sarasota wants your input about what can be done to turn it into a more complete street and make it a “more welcoming, safe, connected, lively and attractive” showcase. Our news team talked with the planner behind the effort.

Johannes Werner: To say it right away – the Main Street Visioning process is not about big-picture change to transportation patterns in town. So, ideas such as banning all cars and turning Main Street into a pedestrian mall, or suggestions by people yearning to hop on a train to Tampa at a station downtown are unlikely to be picked up.

It’s more about elements that would help turn Main Street into what planners call a complete street, for automobiles, bicyclists, transit users and walkers. That could include widening sidewalks, benches, public art, shade trees, BayRunner bus stops, parking spaces, spots to stash rental scooters, and the like. That said, all ideas Sarasota residents give through the city’s online survey will be directed to the right channels, according to the city staffer in charge of the process.

City of Sarasota transportation planner Alvimarie Corales:

Alvimarie Corales: Sidewalks, roadway, parking, and even landscaping as well. So that’s what formulates a complete street in this.  And then, what is not in it is mostly, we’ve been hearing from people, concerns about noise and cleanliness of the sidewalk, and all those things. So those are not part of the scope of the project. Development is not part of the scope or land use, it’s not part of the scope of the project. But there are certain aspects that we take into account, you know, we receive that feedback and we provide this information to other departments for their use.

JW: So no input that comes in will disappear. It will be directed somewhere.

AC: Yes, it will be directed to the appropriate department.  So that way, we make sure that people’s voices are heard.  

JW: Although Main Street is only priority No. 8 on the list of projects in the city’s visioning process, this will probably end up being the project with the biggest number of people providing input. Corales expects easily more than 1,000 people to have been involved by the time the process concludes this summer.

The easiest way to engage is through an online survey that will remain open through April 26. You can find it at www.Sarasotafl.gov/MainStreetCompleteStreets

Alvimarie Corales

AC: So in terms of transit, we are incorporating some of that into the visioning in terms of the trolley, because people love the trolley, and we’re sure that the trolley is here to stay. So we want to make the trolley stops permanent and have the infrastructure in place to be able to make them actual stop locations.

JW: The probably most important in-person event about the future of Main Street is coming up on Tuesday, April 2. From 5 to 7 pm at the Selby Library in downtown, you will be able to share your ideas. There will be opportunities to participate in a discussion, there’s an existing condition review, you will be able to build your own Main Street, and there’s a video station. The two hours are divided into four half-hour sessions to enable small-group conversations.

But you will have to RSVP. There’s a bit.ly webpage for that. Take note: It’s bit.ly/MainStreetVisioning.

After that, there will be open-house events in May and June. Before the April 2 event, the city will engage stakeholders, such as business owners and residents along Main Street. All this will culminate in a final report and a city commission meeting – date yet to be determined.

So what has Corales heard from Sarasotans so far?

AC: So far we have about 750 responses for our survey, and we have heard anything from what you mentioned, a pedestrian mall or a pedestrian zone, to “I don’t want nothing. I don’t want anything.” So there’s opposite sides of the spectrum here. And we want to make sure that when we’re reviewing these comments and when we’re meeting with the public, having this visioning workshop and all those open houses, that we take their feedback and comments and vision into account. So we want to make it as much a part of the community as it is a city project, if that makes sense.

JW: This has been Johannes Werner, reporting for WSLR News.




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