City Commission continues discussion on Pineapple Park expansion to February 2016

Staff to analyze more closely a purchase offer while residents and business owners will have extra time to offer their views on options

Pineapple Park is in downtown Sarasota. Image courtesy City of Sarasota
Pineapple Park is in downtown Sarasota. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The Sarasota city commissioners opted on Monday, Nov. 16, to wait until Feb. 1, 2016 to decide the fate of a 30-foot strip of property adjacent to Pineapple Park.

They heard from proponents of two vastly different options for the city-owned right of way and said they hope to hear more comments from the public before they discuss the topic again next year.

At the heart of the issue is whether to sell the public right of way for development — which is in line with the city’s 2000 downtown master plan — or to preserve the strip of land as an extension of the park.

The Sarasota commercial real estate firm Hembree & Associates, which is developing a project next to the State Street garage, has been negotiating with city staff regarding the purchase of the property near the park. City Attorney Bob Fournier suggested Monday that the city commissioners vet the Hembree proposal in good faith, given the fact of those discussions, before formally entertaining the option of expanding the park.

Commissioner Susan Chapman had placed the item on the Nov. 16 agenda as a discussion about preserving the strip of land. She is proposing the formal dedication of the property as part of Pineapple Park.

Vice Mayor Suzanne Atwell said continuing the discussion to February — instead of scheduling it for an earlier meeting — gives the city staff and board time to learn further details while analyzing the proposal from Hembree & Associates, and it affords residents and business owners more time to offer their views. “We have to look at both sides,” Atwell added.

The vote to continue the discussion to February was 3-2, with Chapman and Mayor Willie Shaw dissenting.

During the upcoming February meeting, the commissioners will also hear a report from the Sarasota Police Department with details about the calls it receives for service at the park. That decision came after a business owner voiced worry Monday about illegal drug activity in the park.

Pineapple Park, know for its mermaid fountain, is located at the corner of Pineapple and Lemon avenues in downtown Sarasota. The official name of the fountain is “Good Heart Place”; $27,500 was donated for its maintenance and restoration in 2005, although none of that money has been spent on maintenance, city records show.