Face-lift for downtown Sarasota

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SARASOTA - Plans are underway to change parts of Main Street in downtown Sarasota, bringing wider sidewalks, parallel parking and more landscaping. Sounds great, right? That depends whom you ask.

James Alberti has run a Main Street barbershop for 33 years, and he doesn't like what's going to happen outside his window.

He's been fighting plans to widen the sidewalks, increase landscaping and include parallel parking--which he thinks will mean fewer places to park.  "We have no problems with the way things are. If it works, don't touch it, right?," Alberti asked.

The Community Redevelopment Agency hired engineers to start 'touching it' in July--and take four months to finish the project.

"Good downtown needs to be attractive, and despite a little short term pain, we're confident of long-term gain," said Sarasota City Manager Thomas Barwin.

But Alberti isn't the only one who questions the need for the project. Kim and Jeff Dulitz just moved here from New York, and they think the city and county could spend that nearly $1.5 million elsewhere.  "It appears to me like it's already beautiful.  I don't see the need; it looks like it was already done. It's already beautiful," Jeff said.

Others wonder why more of the city/county redevelopment fund is again going to downtown. But one county commissioner defended the investment saying good counties begin with good cities.  "Great cities make great counties and activities that generate vibrancy and sales tax is shared throughout the county," said Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta.

The four month project will begin in July.