Should Sarasota Create a Cultural District on the Downtown Waterfront?

By: Cooper Levey-Baker

Hot topics, talk and history.


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Vintage Sarasota

Vintage Sarasota

Vintage Sarasota: Sarasota Hospital, 1925 Fund raising for Sarasota Hospital began in 1921, when Sarasota required a bigger facility to provide care to its growing population. Four years and $40,000 later, Sarasota Hospital opened on Hawthorne Street—with 32 beds and 10 employees. By 1927, it was expanding again, and was renamed Sarasota Municipal Hospital. By the 1930s, the hospital had 100 beds, an operating room and an annex for patient overflow.

Just Sayin’

“On the [North Trail] edge of town, you have a self-created congestion problem that is insane.” —Chuck Marohn, president of Strong Towns, a Minnesota nonprofit that studies municipal planning, when asked about his first impression of Sarasota

Should Sarasota create a cultural district on the downtown waterfront?

In 2006, the city developed a plan for a “cultural district” on publicly owned property around the Van Wezel. That died during the recession, but with the economy improving, the old G.WIZ building vacant and potential new construction at the Quay, is it time to revive the discussion?

“We’re not going to see this conglomeration of property again in our lifetime. This isn’t just about the city—it’s about the whole region. We call ourselves the cultural arts center of Florida. This is an opportunity to put that on the map in a big way.”—Michael Klauber, Visit Sarasota County Board Chair

“That corridor offers opportunity to roll out the red carpet and say, ‘This is what Sarasota’s about.’ If you’re on the City Commission and standing against it, I don’t know why you’re still sitting in that chair.”—Steve McAllister, founder of The Flow Factory, an event and community space

“It’s fantastic that the conversation is getting revived. [It’s been] almost 10 years, but some of the fundamentals [of the original plan] are sound and still apply, parts about a promenade and using the waterfront. It would be very useful today.”—Mike McNees, Melbourne City Manager and Sarasota City Manager from 2001 to 2007

“We spent $32 million on a baseball stadium; we’re up to $40 million on the rowing facility. It’s an incredible waterfront venue and we need to put this at the top of the agenda.”—Virginia Hoffman, artist and visual arts advocate

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This article appears in the June 2014 issue of Sarasota Magazine. Like what you read? Click here to subscribe. >>

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