05/07/2018 - JACOB OGLES

City Looks to Grow Lemon Pedestrian Mall


A popular pedestrian mall in Downtown Sarasota could soon be extended and create a walker-focused center within the urban core. Steven Stancel, Sarasota's general manager of economic development, expects the project to significantly expand retail and restaurant activity. “For years now, the city has promoted walkability and place-making,” Stancel says. “The object is to create a great place for public congregation and activity within this corridor.”

The city wants the work to be done as construction moves ahead on the Mark, a new mixed-use Kolter Urban development on Pineapple Avenue. That 12-story project will bring online 157 new residential units, along with substantial first-floor retail. In March, MidiCi Restaurant became the first tenant for The Promenade commercial area on the ground level. The area is expected to open in 2019. Bob Vail, president of Kolter Urban, says the shopping and dining area will be “a thoughtfully curated collection of boutique retailers and restaurants that will help make this a new epicenter of the downtown landscape and lifestyle.” Plans for the Mark include a walkway through the building that will create a pedestrian corridor to the expanded Lemon Avenue Mall.

The existing pedestrian mall came into existence around 2003, shortly after the approval of Sarasota's Downtown Master Plan. It includes a small plaza at Lemon and First Street, across the street from Whole Foods Market, and spans south to Main in front of Mattison's City Grille. Public works officials with the city say a design/build contract is being developed for the expansion of the Lemon Avenue mall, which is being combined with the already planned improvement project for Paul N. Thorpe, Jr. Park. with a request for proposals going out soon, and a selection of a contractor expected in the next few months. Stancel says the plan would be to extend the mall south of Main to where the road meets Pineapple Avenue at Paul N. Thorpe, Jr. Park. Officials would like see construction start by the end of the year, according to city spokesman Jason Bartolone.

While the corridor will still be open to cars most of the time, Stancel would like to see bollards that could be put in place to stop traffic. Right now, when events like the Sarasota Downtown Farmers Market utilize this area, the city puts out wood sawhorses. Those help demark where pedestrians can walk and deter cars from driving through, but bollards would provide better safety, Stancel says.

It's possible the city could lose some parallel parking spots in the expansion of the mall, Stancel says, but he notes the city less than two years ago opened a 400-space garage nearby on State Street. “So far, we've had nothing but positive feedback,” Stancel says. “People have recognized how successful the city's streetscape programs have been.”

Rendering courtesy City of Sarasota. Image shows ground level view of Paul N. Thorpe, Jr. Park after improvements and expansion of pedestrian mall.

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