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Posts Tagged ‘Sarasota downtown’

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Andres Duany has been a polarizing figure in Sarasota ever since he and his firm helped author the downtown master plan in 2000. While some of his recommendations warrant criticism, it is probably more his demeanor that creates controversy. After all, Duany has referred to local governance in Sarasota as “ass-backwards” and “prissy,” among other things. Equal parts planner and provocateur, Duany (and his outsized personality) is largely responsible for building New Urbanism into both a legitimate force in planning and a divisive polemic.

Without agreeing with everything Duany has to say, we at Laurel Park Management support the tenets of New Urbanism and Duany’s efforts to apply them to Sarasota. We think walkable mixed-use neighborhoods, slower traffic, and better connectivity are great things. We think that downtown should continue to be Sarasota’s epicenter, and that there is work to be done to insure its future as such. And even the traditional architecture most commonly associated with New Urbanism is a natural fit for Laurel Park and the other historic neighborhoods of Sarasota, what with our history of Florida cracker bungalows. Again, without agreeing on every point, we think the man has provided a pretty good roadmap for Sarasota to follow.

Change is never easy. Especially in a place like Sarasota. It wasn’t so long ago that we were essentially a small village. It wasn’t so long ago that Siesta Key was a virtually uninhabited frontier, or that Bee Ridge was a barely-there path cutting through the wilderness. It was a special time in a special place, carefree and far removed from the responsibilities and troubles of city life. But we should all be careful not to gild the past too much. We shouldn’t forget that Sarasota was built by city people, with city money. That it supported a railroad. And that no matter how great the past was the future is always something different. Our task as a community is to thrive again in a new context, a more urban context, without losing some of those aspects of the past that we all remember so fondly. New Urbanism seems to be a good fit for such a future.

Laurel Park Management encourages residents to check out the master plan for downtown Sarasota and draw their own conclusions. We encourage you to walk around Laurel Park, Gillespie Park, Main Street, the bayfront…what do you see that moves you? That charms you? Where do you like to linger, or to meet friends? What paths do you seek out, and which ones do you avoid? Does the master plan speak to your concerns?

Duany might not be making too many friends by saying to our city, “I’m sorry, but you have to grow up,” but he has a point. That which doesn’t, dies. We do have to grow up, and we are. Growing pains are inevitable. But by embracing growth—maturation, not necessarily expansion—we can help guide the process. We will, however, have to abandon simple slogans and in-fighting (the “no boss mayor” campaign comes to mind). We can’t be one-issue voters. We will have to accept that Sarasota’s future will be more urban (and, consequently, urbane) than our past. We will have to treat each other and the issues at hand with respect and deep consideration.

It’s all well and fine for Duany to speak in sound bites; he is a public figure and a salesman for the ideology he helped coalesce. But let us be a bit more measured in our internal discussions while giving honest evaluations of the recommendations Duany has given us. By looking past the rhetoric, we might just find that the path to the future is right in front of us, and that it isn’t so scary after all.

For more from Duany, check out this recent article from metropolismag.com

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If you live in Laurel Park, chances are good you’ve seen downtown Sarasota’s new police headquarters being built between Ringling Boulevard and the north end of Payne Park. What could have been another monstrosity inspired by strip malls has fortunately turned into something quite special. The architectural firm in charge of the project incorporated both elements of the celebrated Sarasota School of Architecture and enough green features to seek LEED certification. To top it off, final negotiations are underway to install a 40-foot remnant from floors 90-92 of the World Trade Center—a fitting tribute to and stark reminder of the dangers policemen and women can encounter.

Whether you live in Laurel Park, Gillespie Park, Alta Vista, or elsewhere in Sarasota, we at Laurel Park Management recommend stopping by to check out the new police headquarters. It is an impressive addition to the surprisingly rich architectural history of our humble hamlet. For more information check out the City of Sarasota website as well as this article from the Herald Tribune, an excerpt of which is below:

“We felt like we had an opportunity to do an urban sculpture,” said architect Ian Reeves, of Architects Design Group in Winter Park. Sculptural accents include a blue steel framework around the roofline, a Z-shaped exposed brace at the entry plaza, rectangular white braces on the west and north facades, and a second curtain wall on the south side, with rectangles cut into it to allow views for police officers.

“We had an opportunity to create a very civic facility in keeping with the Sarasota school (of architecture) premise,” Reeves added. “So we wanted to respect what has been done historically, but use modern materials that reflect the security and safety and survivability of a police department.”

It should be survivable. The building is the only structure in the city designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. It is considered so strong that the City of Sarasota has moved its computer servers to the top floor. Yes, there is a lot of glass. But each of those 1,976 energy-efficient windows are impact-resistant and weigh 300 pounds.

If the building appears to fit right in with the Payne Park recreational building to the southeast, it is not coincidental. ADG, which specializes in public-service buildings, designed that structure, too.

“We have a 40-acre park as the master jewel of the downtown area,” said Reeves. “What an opportunity to be the backdrop.”

keep reading at heraldtribune.com

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