Tentative timeline calls for master plan for city’s 42 bayfront acres to win community approval in July 2018

Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization chair updates City Commission on project team and financing

The expansive Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall parking lot is part of the 42 acres at the focus of planning for new amenities under the aegis of The Bay Sarasota. File photo

The goal of the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization (SBPO) is to have a master plan in place by late next summer to transform the City of Sarasota’s 42 bayfront acres into a cultural arts district with abundant public access to the water, the SBPO chair told the City Commission this week.

During the board’s regular meeting on Dec. 4, A.G. Lafley pointed out that the nine-member nonprofit organization recently hired Bill Waddill, senior vice president of Kimley-Horn & Associates in Sarasota, to serve as its managing director. He also introduced representatives of the firm the SBPO has selected to undertake the master planning, Sasaki of Watertown, Mass.

“He has a lot of experience in the planning sector,” Lafley said of Waddill, “and he will be joining us on the fourth of January [2018].”

Bill Waddill. Image from LinkedIn

Waddill has been with Kimley-Horn since 1986, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Lafley is the former CEO and chair of Procter & Gamble.

Moreover, Lafley told the commissioners, the SBPO has raised more than $2 million in “private and philanthropic donations” to cover all its expenses, with some contingency funds left over. Neither the planning process nor Waddill’s salary will “cost the city a penny,” Lafley said.

Lafley then introduced Gina Ford, principal of Sasaki, who is a landscape architect, and Susannah Ross, a senior associate of the firm who will serve as the project manager.

Ford explained that she and Ross have been working together for “close to 17 years” and that they purposely seek out projects that are transformational and have high levels of community engagement.

Lafley reiterated to the commissioners that the mission of The Bay Sarasota is “to create a long-term master plan for the Sarasota Bayfront area that will establish a cultural and economic legacy for the region while ensuring open, public access to the Bayfront, increasing Sarasota’s visibility as a cultural capital.”

(From left) Susannah Ross, Gina Ford, A.G. Lafley and Michael Klauber appear before the City Commission on Dec. 4. News Leader photo

The 42 acres at the heart of that plan lie between Boulevard of the Arts — Sixth Street — and 10th Street in downtown Sarasota, along the U.S. 41 corridor.

Ford referred to the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to craft the master plan for the property.

Part of the Sasaki team at work on the project will be focused on finding funding to make the master plan financially sustainable, she said.

Then Ross discussed the timeline for Sasaki’s work. In Phase 1, she told the board, the goal is for the team members to develop a deep understanding of the site and its potential. That will occur in January and February, she noted. By mid-February — in Phase 2 — the team hopes to talk again with the commissioners and the bayfront stakeholders about its initial thinking — “really concrete ideas about what might happen in that space” — to determine if it is on the right course, she added.

Phase 3 will entail the development of two or three scenarios, Ross continued. The project team again will seek comments from members of the community and the commissioners, she said.

Then the tentative timeline calls for the draft master plan to be completed in June, with the hope that the commission and the stakeholders will give it their approval in July, Ross added.

Every eight weeks or so, Lafley pointed out, the expectation is that the project team will hit another milestone. Therefore, he continued, he expects the commissioners will want to meet more frequently with SBPO and Sasaki representatives.

“We’re meeting literally weekly, daily, with somebody in the community,” he added, in an effort to gain as many comments as possible from the public.

The Ithaca (N.Y.) Commons project, designed by Sasaki, was completed in 2016. Image from the Sasaki website

Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie thanked the group, adding of the timeline, “That’s critical for us,” as the board will be working on its budget for the 2019 fiscal year during much of that period.

“Yes, please give us as many updates [as you can],” she added, noting that “the transparency is what we are looking for.” She also stressed the board’s desire for the 42 acres to remain accessible to the public, regardless of individuals’ income levels.

When Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch asked how the original 57 stakeholders in the project are being involved in the process, Lafley emphasized that the SBPO has been working “to significantly expand” its communication and collaboration efforts, including working with the Sarasota Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations (CCNA).

The SBPO and the Sasaki group want to hear from everyone interested in the future of the bayfront, he added, learning about their “hopes and dreams,” not just for themselves but also for their children and grandchildren.