From left to right: David Gustafson, Johnette Isham, Wes Roberts, Drayton Saunders and Thomas Balsley. Photo Credit: Evan Sigmund
On Thursday, March 19th, SRQ hosted SB2 Vibrant Bayfronts: Regional Waterfront Development to a packed audience at the Francis. It seems that everyone’s mind is on the Sarasota Bayfront and what we can look forward to regarding its development. This particular SB2 was special because we learned a great deal about the process of development from local experts of the Bradenton Riverwalk, and special keynote speaker Thomas Balsley of New York shed light on the topic of cultivating civic parks. As our community takes steps to create a proposed space dedicated to the beautiful Sarasota Bay, it was perfect timing to have our questions answered and learn more about the process. Here’s what we learned:
Opening presenter Brian Mariash of MLC & Associates. Photo Credit: Evan Sigmund
1. Learn from your neighbors (both near and far): Brian Mariash of MLC & Associates kicked off the symposium as the opening presenter. As a resident of Punta Gorda when hurricane Charlie hit in 2004, Brian took a vested interest in the rebuilding of the destroyed bayfront – and learned first hand about why bayfronts require a well-developed plan. It is a passion that he has long since carried with him. Close to home, the recent completion of the Bradenton Riverwalk serves as a reminder of what can happen when local government works alongside community organizations. And sharing a common mission always helps, “cooperation between the public and officials helps bond a program,” said panelist David Gustafson of Bradenton Downtown Development Authority.
2. It is possible to harmonize public and private interest in a dedicated space for everyone to enjoy (but it might take time): Reflecting on Brian’s opening remarks, Drayton Saunders of Michael Saunders & Company noted the importance of engaging the whole community. “With Bayfront 20:20, our goal is to engage with multiple parts of the community. The result is not that of one voice, but of many.”
Panelists engage in discussion on the Sarasota Bayfront. Photo Credit: Evan Sigmund
3. Spend your energy being forward thinking, rather than looking at what makes sense for right now: Keynote speaker Thomas Balsley of Thomas Balsley Associates in New York shared a story of a past civil project. When community leaders chose a master plan that opposed their mission, he posed the question, “Which design do you think will best serve your grandchildren?” Sometimes a little perspective can change the minds of even the staunchest opposition to change. In a similar line of thought, Johnette Isham of Realize Bradenton noted the importance of involving young people in the development and conceptualization of these large-scale projects. In planning the Bradenton Riverwalk, she harnessed the support of students from the University of South Florida. The result was surprising: over 75% of the riverwalk’s design is student generated.
4. Parks are just as much about people than they are about land. We don’t mind admitting that we left SB2 feeling so inspired by the gorgeous projects that Thomas Balsley’s talented team have completed. Close to home, Curtis Hixon park is the perfect example. The careful planning and preparation on that project are clearly reflected in the finished product. A gathering place for the entire Tampa area, the park is an oasis for locals of all ages (even those with four legs). Every element was thoughtfully considered, down to the park “benches” – a reclining seat that swivels. Because “a park bench shouldn’t dictate your view” it should enhance it and celebrate the amazing waterfront in front of you.
Keynote speaker Thomas Balsley responds to an audience question at SB2 on March 19. Photo Credit: Evan Sigmund
We are incredibly grateful for the sponsors that made Vibrant Bayfronts possible. CS&L CPAs is a faithful supporter of SB2 and topics that are so critical to our community. Special thanks to MLC & Associates for joining SB2 as an event sponsor, and for being an incredible advocate of living local by taking an interest in the issues that surround us.
To view a gallery of photos from the event, click here.