Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Bayfront Prairie for Sale

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Bayfront Prairie for Sale

Article excerpt

Anticipating a new day for 'the Quay' site

Sarasota's fallow bayfront prairie -- the cleared expanse that once was the Quay -- has been pushing up grass ever since the Great Recession rained on developers' plans for a billion-dollar project there. But with news that the property -- trapped for years in foreclosure litigation -- is now ready for sale, cloverleafs of optimism are beginning to emerge.

The property is an important business opportunity, of course. But from a civic perspective, it is also a landmark whose success -- or failure -- will affect the fabric of the community in big ways. Everything from the visual "first impression" of the city, to Sarasota's tax base and traffic patterns, have a stake in the outcome.

Because of these factors, the future of the site deserves holistic, long-range consideration.

To be sure, the choice of what is built there will be largely up to developers, because the land is private property and seems likely to stay that way. It is already zoned for a mixture of residential and commercial high-rise.

But it is "public" in the sense that it is such a prominent locale, on the city's main thoroughfare. The site deserves signature architecture and a mix of functions that complement city goals.

As the Herald-Tribune's Josh Salman noted, the land is one of the most coveted development parcels in the region. Lying just west of Sarasota's downtown, across U.S. 41, the property's neighbors include a Ritz-Carlton hotel and numerous glitzy condos. It's a short walk from the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, and the sunset views -- looking out toward the Ringling Bridge and the expansive north bay -- are spectacular. A little south are the Bayfront Park and a marina.

More problematically, however, the old Quay acreage sits at the foot of a traffic headache: the sometimes overwhelmed funnel linking U.S. 41, Fruitville Road (the I-75 connector), and Gulfstream (the route to and from Lido Beach and Longboat Key).

Because Gulfstream and Fruitville are only a few short blocks apart, the link jams up at peak traffic times during the tourist season. And that's without the Quay, which contributed to traffic before the buildings were torn down in preparation for Sarasota Bayside -- the redevelopment that didn't happen. …

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