Community Redevelopment Agency asks for input on new future for Newtown

Future of Newtown

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The Newtown Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) has hired a consultant to help redevelop the northern part of Sarasota and they’re asking for Newtown’s input on what should be built there.

The CRA was first established more than 10 years ago to redevelop the area. Now, city staff said it’s time for new projects and new programs for the future of Newtown.

“We do fish, shrimp, chicken, crabs, corn, potatoes,” said Lance Shabazz, who owns several businesses and properties on MLK Way.

Of course, can’t forget the red snapper. “Steamed or fried!” Shabazz added.

But his business is more than a restaurant filling empty stomachs. In a small town community where everyone knows each other, places like this are home.

“We been here over 100 years," Shabazz said. "And it was a thriving, thriving black community. We had everything that we wanted.”

A Newtown that’s seen better days.

“Hair salons, clothing stores, 5-10 cents stores, black owned and operated right here on 27th Street which is called now, MLK Way," Shabazz said.

As he remembered the past, Shabazz held a rendering of the future he’d like to see for Newtown.

The City of Sarasota’s CRA said they stepped in back in 2008 to try to revitalize the area back to what it once was in the 1900s. Now, city staff are aiming to attract new development, better and more affordable housing, economic drivers and transportation to this area.

“We want to see people coming into the area and spending money in this area," said Onya Bates, Newtown Redevelopment Manager. "There’s not a lot of retail on Dr. MLK. We have a few convenience stores.”

The CRA said it would also like to see a Newtown grocery store and bank, but they’re asking the community to voice their opinions, too.

It’s crucial input the former mayor of Sarasota said is key to successfully revitalizing this area.

“I think it’s a great idea, but I caution the City to make sure they do this in partnership with the Newtown community," said Carolyn J. Mason, who lives in Newtown. "Because I believe that the needs of the people are very important.”

Anyone who would like to participate in the survey can do so by clicking here.

All community members are invited to attend the meeting that staff are planning at the Goodwill on Tuesday. For more information, click here.

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