The Sarasota Bayfront Master Plan
The Sarasota Bayfront Master Plan lays the groundwork to transform a 53-acre
, city-owned site on the stunning "Cultural Coast" of Florida into a more inclusive and welcoming community waterfront destination. The project delivers a long-term master plan to guide future improvements to the valuable site—establishing a cultural and economic legacy for the region while ensuring open, public access to the Bayfront.
The Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization, a nine-person citizen board, hired Sasaki
in 2017 to lead this Master Planning effort. Since then, Sasaki and Agency Landscape + Planning
have led the process of giving shape to the community’s vision. The site occupies a prime location with sweeping waterfront views and is anchored by several beloved cultural institutions. However, until now, the site has not fully leveraged its inherent potential to serve as a treasured community asset, as it sits covered in surface parking lots that make it 65% percent impervious. The plan, once implemented, will enhance the cultural vitality of the site, provide expanded public open space, improve connectivity to other parts of the city, and offer an economically and environmentally sustainable long-term management strategy.
Through an intensive outreach process, which incorporated public meetings, social media, online town halls and surveys, Sasaki and the client team connected with over 50,000 community members. The input directly led to an innovative site plan, facility plan, and a phasing plan that reflects the desires of future and current users of the site. The plan’s design elements include a highly programmed recreational pier, a renewed historic district, a large adventure play area, enhanced waterfront access along the entire site, a living shoreline, a new performing arts center, restaurants and an iconic elevated boardwalk that connects the north and south sides of site.
The community-driven master plan was approved by the Sarasota City Commission in September, 2018. Sasaki, with design lead Agency Landscape + Planning, are beginning the design and implementation of Phase 1 of the plan. This first phase encompasses a 10-acre site and will include connectivity improvements at and over a busy freeway, a new pier on the bay, and a linear park to improve access to, along, and over the bay—a top priority for the community.
The Bay Sarasota FAQ's
Below are common questions and answers regarding the new Sarasota Bay Project. Click on each question below to view the answer.
What is the Sarasota Bay Project?
The Bay Sarasota Project is a transformation of a 53-acre, city-owned site into a more inclusive and welcoming community waterfront destination. The project was established to create a cultural and economic legacy for the region while ensuring open, public access to the Sarasota Bayfront.
Who Oversees this Project?
The City of Sarasota owns the 53-acre project site. Born out of a volunteer and advocacy group called Bayfront 2020, the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization (SBPO) was formed to oversee the master planning process. SPBO will shape the governance and financial plans to guide the next phases of design, construction and ongoing operation.
How did this Project Come About?
A few dedicated citizens identified the initial opportunity in 2013 and Bayfront 20:20 came together in November of that year. The Bayfront 20:20 coalition led a process of community engagement and dialogue that resulted in an overall Vision and Guiding Principles for the transformation of the 53 acres into a park on the bay — open and accessible to all. Sarasota neighborhoods (CCNA) supported the vision and guiding principles. The City Commission endorsed the Vision and Guiding Principles in February 2015. Today, Bayfront 20:20 has grown into a diverse advocacy group of more than 60 arts, business, civic, cultural and educational community stakeholders.
In July 2016, the City Commission agreed to the formation of a planning board, the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization (SBPO). The SBPO board was announced in October 2016. This planning board led a deliberate, disciplined, open and transparent process over the past two years; engaged a professional urban design and planning partner, Sasaki; hired a Managing Director, Bill Waddill, and a lean and talented staff; and delivered a comprehensive, long-term Master Plan to transform the 53 acres into a world-class park as promised the City and the broader community.
What is the Purpose of this Project?
Coming out of a comprehensive master planning process, the Sarasota community has a new vision for the waterfront site that will enliven and expand upon historic usage of this space. The first step in implementing this new vision will be to create an open, public, accessible park for all—creating a destination that is attractive and inviting and building upon the bayfront’s legacy by enhancing and protecting the 53 acres and creating a world-renowned, integrated destination. The space will bolster the community’s cultural and educational heritage with enhancements to beloved institutional anchors and new improvements to outdoor programming, connectivity, and sustainability.
Why is this Project a Priority for the City?
This project is the latest investment supporting Sarasota’s long-held commitment to advancing open space, culture, environmental stewardship, and education. The new park will be a place for all, incorporating educational programming, connective links to neighboring districts, green space fit to serve the entire region, and an overall enlivened cultural destination for Sarasota’s diverse community.
How is the City Collaborating on this Project?
As the current owner of the land along the bayfront, the City is working closely with the SBPO, design team, and consultants on future governance and operating procedures for the phased construction and operations of the park.
Who are the Designers on this Project and what Roles do they Play?
The Sarasota Bay Planning Organization (SBPO) hired Sasaki to lead a master planning and design process to transform the site into a world-class waterfront. Sasaki - working closely with former Sasaki principal, landscape architect and design lead Gina Ford of Agency Landscape + Planning - led the architecture (Christine Dunn), urban design (Martin Zogran), planning (Jill Dixon) and engineering (Zach Chrisco) for the project. Susannah Ross, a senior associate and landscape architect with Sasaki, is the team’s project manager.
The Sasaki team includes technical experts - Kimley-Horn (transportation and engineering), Moffit and Nichol (boating and marine infrastructure), Baird Engineering (resilience), and BR+A (sustainability) - as well as an implementation-focused team of specialists - HR&A Advisors (finance), Kathy Blaha (governance) and Chris Wangro (programming). The team worked closely with local marketing and communications firm, atLarge, for project outreach and strategic communications.
What Role has the Community Played in the Shaping of the Plan?
The broad and diverse Sarasota community engaged deeply in the master planning effort. Community open houses, online engagement, stakeholder focus groups, site tours, community forums, youth engagement, and young professional charrettes are just a few ways the planning team facilitated the conversation. The planning process orchestrated upwards of 50,000 points of contact – in-person and via online engagement – leading some to call this an “unprecedented” amount of outreach. Importantly, the outreach shaped the plan’s recommendations, ensuring the consideration of a wide array of opportunities and options and alignment of uses and experiences with community needs. On September 6th, 2018, buoyed by extensive community support, the Sarasota City Commission unanimously approved the master plan and authorized the implementation of the project’s first phase, a new public park and recreational pier on Boulevard of the Arts.
What is Phase 1?
Phase 1 comprises the build-out of a recreational pier on the southern edge of the 53 acres. Stretching the length of Boulevard of the Arts from the bay to US 41, Phase 1 includes a linear public park with green parking and improvements to Boulevard of the Arts—inclusive of a bridge that will span across US 41 to connect the park to the Rosemary District and Downtown beyond. The park will incorporate amenities like outdoor dining, recreational lawns, fitness opportunities, outdoor classrooms, and shade structures, to name a few. Ecological restoration of the canal inlet will improve accessibility to the water for kayaks and other water activities while protecting the soft edges of our waterfront. As a new outdoor destination for Sarasota, the park will encourage cultural vitality and boost economic sustainability.
How will Phase 1 be Funded?
Funding for Phase 1 will come from multiple funding sources, but will primarily be financed through philanthropic funds. The cost for all of Phase 1 ranges between $15-25 million, but Phase 1A is estimated to cost around $4-8 million, plus $1-2 million/year for operating costs.
How does this Project Benefit the Entire Community?
Phase 1 is a win-win for the community, offering an open, accessible public park for all of Sarasota, including science and nature education with outdoor classrooms and living laboratories. There will be areas for recreation and fitness as well as outdoor dining, space for light festivals and music performances, and opportunities for pop-up beer gardens and food trucks all year long.