Differing visions for the future of downtown Sarasota

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Posted: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 5:08 pm | Updated: 1:05 pm, Mon Oct 21, 2013.

SARASOTA - Major development is coming back to downtown Sarasota. After a lull in building thanks to the recession, several luxury high rises are slated to be built. But some are warning that if the city wants to stay relevant, it can't just cater to the ultra-wealthy.

Local experts say a recovering economy and pent-up demand are fueling the soon-to-be building boom downtown. But they say that in order to move the city into the future, developers have to focus on more than just wealthy buyers.

The Aqua will one day be another eye-catching luxury high rise downtown, slated to go up on Golden Gate Point. Right across the street is the future home of the Corallina, another building of luxury condos. And just blocks away on Main Street will be The Jewel, 19 units of pure, high end luxury.

"I think it says that wealthy people want to come here, but I don’t know that it speaks for the people that are going to serve the wealthy people and we need a more of a collective, unified vision that covers the people from every level." Former state senator Robert Johnson says it’s clear the economy is coming back. “While that's great for bringing buyers to Sarasota, Johnson says there needs to be an approach that includes more than just the wealthy. "I think what Sarasota needs is a new vision. We had a vision back in the 50s and 60s and 70s, the early eighties; but since then Sarasota has lacked any kind of collective vision."

Part of that vision includes more development that caters to up-and-comers.

"We're building something that will attract young professionals that allows them to live work and play right in downtown." Entrpeneuer Jesse Biter says in order to attract more young workers, and thus bring more business to the area, development needs to include more than just the status quo. “The way the rules are downtown, developers are forced to build large units that attract wealthy people that are generally snowbirds, that aren’t here in the summertime, and downtown suffers."

There’s no word yet on when the construction on those high-rises is set to begin. Biter told ABC 7 he hopes more development will lend itself to a more urban feel and help make the area a hub for technology.

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