Sarasota Tackling Reverse Migration Challenges


Consider vehicular traffic, pollution and parking as diminishing areas of concern if you’re planning to relocate to downtown Sarasota and its nearby areas. The city government and local business and civic groups are taking purposive efforts to address these issues exacerbated by the current trend of reverse migration to the downtown from suburban districts.

Signs of accelerating population growth in Sarasota’s urban core abound. One city official has estimated that in the next two years, some 500 residential units will be added to the downtown area including townhomes, condominiums and apartments.

Hotels reshaping downtown

More hotels are going up too, with five poised to join Sarasota’s skyline by 2016, adding an estimated 500 hotel rooms. This quintet includes Hotel Sarasota at the corner of North Palm and Cocoanut avenues and Aloft Sarasota at the corner of North Gulfstream and Tamiami Trail.

Adjacent to the to the Vue Sarasota Bay condo development, the Westin Sarasota is also set for construction. Construction of an Embassy Suites which will bring in 180 rooms is likewise scheduled in this area. The Kimpton Hotel is likewise for construction along North Washington Boulevard and Main Street.

State Street mixed-use garage rising

Sarasota Tackling Reverse Migration Challenges

Concerns on parking brought about by the new residential and hotel developments could be alleviated by the multi-million dollar garage project in State Street wherein construction started this summer. This project is proceeding as a mix of garage parking, commercial shops and residential condo units. Close to 400 parking spaces will be accommodated in the six-story garage which is expected to be finished by March 2015.

The city has already sold two pieces of the project to two Sarasota developers. WMR Consulting got the commercial condominium space of approximately 14,000 square feet for about $1.8 million. Hembree & Associates, on the other hand, won with a $688,000 bid for a separate 5,000-square-foot parcel which is good for18 residential units and some storefront retail.

Electric cart circuit eyed

Efforts are also underway to mitigate pollution and vehicular traffic around the downtown area. One promising initiative is the plan of the Downtown Improvement District (DID) to introduce free electric cart service around Sarasota’s city centre.

Working off from passenger tips, the zero-emission electric carts are envisioned plying a 5.2-mile route from upper Main Street to lower Main and then up toward the Ritz Carlton and Boulevard of the Arts. DID already tested the electric cart project early this year, and it hopes to have a fleet of 10 circulating the route, allowing for passenger wait times of as short as five minutes for a ride.

Cut the carbon footprint

County-wide, it is also notable that the Sarasota County Commission is now looking at infrastructure opportunities to help expand charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs). Currently, Sarasota has the third highest number of EVs in Florida based on population and the added charging stations could further encourage more EVs on the road.

At present, there are 22 EV charging stations in Sarasota. Many motorists are shifting to these vehicles not only for their eco-friendly advantage but also because of fuel cost savings generated.