|3/3/2021 1:33:00 PM|
This is big.
Something really big happened recently and I’m betting very few noticed. There was no national press coverage, no interruption of the regularly scheduled broadcast with a test of the emergency broadcast system, nor a single Silver Alert issued. But it was big, in a small town way.
|Todd Tracy, Secretary OEVA|
On January 29th, Sarasota County circulated a Projects & Community update for the CRA, our Community Redevelopment Area advisory board. You can request to be included in the next update by contacting the CRA at 941-650-2235 or writing them at email@example.com.
The update included the “Dearborn Street Plaza”, stating that the “final review of the development plans is wrapping up in the County’s Building Department. Staff will be forwarding the construction bid package to Procurement in the next couple of weeks.”
In case you are visiting or simply have not been following Dearborn Street Plaza improvement story, it is the vacant lot on the south side of Dearborn that the larger farmers market operates on. A pavilion for community activities will be built on southern end of the lot.
The update also included the “West Dearborn Improvement Project”, the “S. McCall Road Improvement Project”, the “Future Land Uses along S. McCall Road”, and my favorite, the “Improvements to the Residential/Commercial Transition Overlay District (RCTOD)”. Somewhere in this list was the really big news, but let’s take a moment and think about the second biggest news first.
Two years ago, the CRA attempted to update the future land uses along the southern portion of S. McCall Road. During those meetings, the residents insisted that drainage was more important than “additional land use designations”, which would have been the first step towards the expansion of the RCTOD in the S. McCall Road area. It was a small step forward, but an important one. That project is being revisited soon. Now the really, really, big news, the RCTOD. The update reads:
This project was created in 2018. The project includes pervious concrete sidewalks; boardwalks in lieu of sidewalks in areas where normal sidewalks will not work because of right-of-way issues; street lighting; landscaping islands where applicable; drainage improvements and a parking lot design that could be utilized to provide satellite parking lots (approximately 33 spaces) should the CRA be able to purchase small lots in the future. A small amount of funding was allocated in 2021 allowing County Engineers to begin working on the scope of work for a design contract. Construction funding is not yet allocated. The construction may have to be phased based on funds available each year.
Ok, right about now you are scratching your head wondering what the heck is so exciting about this update? Simply put, it took decades to get here when you consider the birth of the CRA, all the community efforts behind the creation of Englewood’s walking arts district, and all the pioneering clubs, groups, non-profits, and businesses that struggled for years helping the county define the allowed uses. To see our CRA include the RCTOD in an official CRA project update is nothing short of incredible. Stay tuned for the workshops ahead.
Keep in mind that this accomplishment was not won singlehandedly. It was not the work of one person, organization, administrator, or even one commissioner, it was all of us working together for years. Because of those that believed, dreamed, wrote, published, voted, volunteered, and poured their time, guts and money into the arts district idea, Englewood will have a downtown that will be unmatched in the years ahead.
But the real work is still ahead because the arts district still faces the daunting task of transitioning a residential neighborhood into a welcoming walking arts district. It will need to be connected to Dearborn Streets promotions and events and it will require lighting, sidewalks and parking as noted in the project update. But if we stay focused on the town’s future, this walking arts district promises to be one of Englewood’s largest economic attractors.
Ok, now the rest of the story. OEVA has begun their monthly town hall meetings. They are held at 380 Old Englewood Road, on the Open Studio property, one of the few operating RCTOD properties in the district. Join us, with a chair if you can, on the third Monday of each month at 3:30. Visit the www.EnglewoodFL.org website for more details.
This month we will be talking about the OEVA president’s arts vision, discussing the possibility of a downtown mural contest, and an arts alley. Join us if you can.
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