Neighboring downtown business doesn’t want city moving in next door

Chris Voelker, Owner of Street Street Eating House + Cocktails, is opposed to the City of Sarasota buying a neighboring building. (Ray Collins)

SARASOTA (WWSB) - The City of Sarasota made an offer to buy the former Coastal Behavioral building on State Street, but at least one nearby business owner isn’t pleased. The owner of the State Street Eating House + Cocktails, Chris Voelker, says a government presence would change the vibe of the street.

“State Street is very lively--and to use this for offices would deaden the street. I would like to see somebody else buy it and make if a point of interest on this great street," Voelker said.

But the City Hall spokesman couldn’t disagree more.

“The Development Services Department has experienced an unprecedented amount of activity over the past five years at its current location at City Hall. It has processed a record number of permits in each of the past five years and is on pace to again break that record and issue more than 9,000 permits this year. We expect the new space would be equally as busy with visitors from the public who are doing business with the City, in addition to the City employees who would be working there,” wrote Jason Bartolone in an email.

The seller of the building is asking nearly $3 million and Bartolone says at this point the City’s offer is still “pending.”

“If approved by the commission, the building would be purchased using funds already available in the Building Division’s enterprise fund (i.e. user fees that can only be used for expenses related to building and permitting operations, etc. – not property tax revenue). The general fund would only be used to pay for a portion of the space if it’s determined there is sufficient space in the new building to also house employees not directly related to building and permitting functions, such as the Planning Department or local business tax staff,” Bartolone wrote.

Voelker says, in her mind, any money taken from the public still qualifies as “tax dollars,” something she thinks the city is too quick to spend.

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