From the Desk of Sarasota
City Manager Tom Barwin
May 3, 2019
Earlier this week we officially cut the ribbon on the new St. Armands Garage in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd of St. Armands property owners, business owners and project stakeholders. The beautiful and elegant 484-space garage is an instant architectural classic, designed to fit in with the ambiance of the surrounding businesses and neighborhood. It was created with the environment in mind, including the 90 solar panels affixed to the roof that will supply 25 percent of the garage's power. This is the first public garage we're aware of with a landscaped atrium and open-air stairwells that allow for better natural light, visibility and maximum public safety. St. Armands Circle is a special place, as most recently recognized in U.S. News and World Report's listing of Sarasota as the No. 18 Best Place to Live in the U.S., and now it's gotten even better with the opening of the garage and the abundance of easy nearby parking at just 50 cents an hour. If you haven't been to the Circle lately, we hope you'll come check out the garage, located at 57 N. Adams Dr., while visiting the great local restaurants and shops.

  • City Commission
    Mon., May 6 - 1:30 p.m. & 6 p.m.
    City Hall - Commission Chambers
  • Downtown Improvement District
    Tues., May 7 - 9 a.m.
    City Hall Annex - SRQ Media Studio
  • St. Armands BID
    Wed., May 8 - 8:30 a.m.
    City Hall Annex - SRQ Media Studio
  • Public Art Committee
    Wed., May 8 - 1 p.m.
    City Hall - Commission Chambers
  • Planning Board
    Wed., May 8 - 6 p.m.
    City Hall - Commission Chambers
  • Community Workshop
    Thurs., May 9 - 5:30 p.m.
    City Hall - Room 112
  • Nuisance Abatement Board
    Thurs., May 9 - 6 p.m.
    City Hall - Commission Chambers
This Week's Items to Know:

Homelessness Response - Making Progress    The Point in Time survey conducted by the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness on Jan. 28, 2019, in Sarasota and Manatee counties provided a snapshot of our community's progress, helping to get the chronic homeless off the streets.
The data shows that homelessness in the Sarasota city limits has
A Homeless Outreach Team making contact with
an individual - Summer 2018
dropped by a remarkable 52.1% over the past three years. This is a dramatic improvement attributable to the community's commitment to evoke change through a systematic approach with a coordinated entry system and connecting housing with essential mental health and substance abuse services.   
The City has had dedicated Homeless Outreach Teams since 2014, which include a social service case manager and SPD officer, who meet one-on-one with the chronic homeless on the street and work to develop a plan aimed toward housing.
In addition, Judge Erika Quartermaine's Comprehensive Treatment Court, a jail diversion program, helps place the chronic homeless with mental health issues into housing and also pairs them with social services.
While we're seeing progress, there's more work to be done. We need to share the data and proven success with policy makers who can help solve the problem further with stable and appropriate funding.  Funding the response on the front end to finish this work will save taxpayer dollars when considering the hidden costs of the revolving door of emergency medical care and the criminal justice system.   
We greatly appreciate all of our partners working together on this challenge, especially Jon Thaxton and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation for the exemplary effort responding to this crisis. And, thanks to Ed DeMarco and his leadership over the past two years with the Suncoast Partnership helping to combat homelessness.  Earlier this week, Ed announced his retirement, and we wish him all the best with his future plans.  
Permitting - System Upgrade   Next week, our busy Permitting Division will continue the process of digitizing to a new computer system enabling the Development Services Department to sunset the current system which has performed well past its expected lifespan.
The new system will improve staff response, enhance cyber security, reduce paper use and allows inspectors to file reports electronically in real-time from a job site.
In order to transfer the significant amount of data from the current system to the new one and
Customer service in the Permitting Division will be limited May 6-9 and the office will be closed May 10.

tie into other necessary backend platforms, customer service in the Permitting Division will be very limited next week May 6-9, and the office will be closed Friday, May 10.  New plans and payments will not be accepted during that time. 
The Permitting office will reopen Monday, May 13, with staff trained and ready to go on the new system. As with any new computer system, it may take us humans a bit to adjust. So, we appreciate your patience in advance.   
Other business areas within Development Services, including the local business tax receipt, code compliance and foreclosed properties, have already successfully cut over to the new system.  
Thanks to Development Services Director Tim Litchet, who shepherded this much-needed upgrade, and to IT Director Herminio Rodriguez for his insight and counsel with the technology that will modernize and digitize our Permitting Division as we continue transforming the City to digital services.          
Lemon Ave. Streetscape - Work Starts May 13   Improvements to create an even more vibrant and pedestrian-friendly downtown are set to begin Monday, May 13 (the day after Mother's Day) with the much-anticipated Lemon Avenue Streetscape.
At the request of downtown merchants, the start date was scheduled to coincide with ongoing construction at The Mark, but after Mother's Day when most seasonal residents and tourists have left town.
City staff and our contractor, Jon F. Swift Construction, met
Jason Swift, President & CEO of Jon F. Swift Construction, discusses the project during a stakeholder meeting this week.

with downtown stakeholders earlier this week to go over the planned phases,  tentative work schedule and also to emphasize that public parking spaces will remain open to the public and will not be used by construction workers on this project.  
Phase I (May 13 to approximately mid-June) will include creating a new brick walkway for pedestrians on the east side of State Street across from the Gator Club, which will resemble the Lemon Ave. plaza just to the north. All businesses will remain accessible to pedestrians.
Some important tentative dates to keep in mind:
  • Mid-June to Mid-July:  Lemon Ave./Main St. intersection will be closed to vehicular traffic
  • August to September:  Lemon Ave./State St. intersection will be closed to vehicular traffic

Please understand these dates are tentative and may change.
By late fall and through December, improvements will be underway at Paul Thorpe Jr. Park.
With more people visiting and living year-round in downtown, the Lemon Ave. Streetscape will create a safe, pedestrian-friendly environment for residents and an inviting sense of place where visitors will want to be and enjoy.     
Additional project information is available at:    
When construction begins, the website will be updated approximately every two weeks throughout the project.  
Sarasota - Open for Small Businesses!    After being honored last month as the 18th best place to live in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, our special city has just been recognized as the #2 Best Small City to Start a Small Business
Verizon conducted the survey and based rankings on various factors including drive time to work, taxes, income and loans per capita and broadband access. The findings highlight why conditions are favorable for small business owners in Sarasota. What a feather in our cap!   
This significant recognition was possible thanks to those who have worked tirelessly to foster a vibrant environment for small businesses in Sarasota -- from the City Commission supporting dynamic improvement projects like the Lemon Avenue Streetscape to the downtown Business Improvement District to the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County -- and, the many small business owners themselves. Congratulations, everyone!     
Big Brothers Big Sisters - Mentor Program    A group of City
employees recently wrapped up their participation in a Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast mentoring program that paired them up with students from Booker High School. The "Bigs" met with their "Littles" throughout the school year to provide mentoring in a professional setting.

The "Beyond School Walls" program allowed the students to shadow our staff and learn about their work environments and different career paths. We hosted guest speakers on topics such as professionalism, higher education, soft skills, career planning and more. After those sessions, the employees and students met one-on-one to talk about their personal lives and future educational goals.

For their final session together earlier this week, the Bigs and Littles worked together to create "vision boards" that illustrated their personal and professional aspirations, then presented them to the group. It was a great exercise in helping these young people visualize their higher goals and aspirations.

Human Resources Director Stacie Mason and her "Little," Booker High sophomore Amaya Saunders, work together on creating their "vision board."
We're thankful to the City employees who were so generous in offering their time, wisdom and experience to this program, and we're proud to partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast in advancing their mission of providing great opportunities for our youth. We wish the students future success and hope their time here will have a lasting impact.

Van Wezel:  Shows on Sale Now! 

To view the full Van Wezel season, visit 
Purple Reign
Sat., May 4 - 8 p.m. 
Friday Fest - Big Night Out 
Fri., June 21 - 5 p.m.
FREE Event 
Friday Fest - Rebel Heart 
Fri., July 19 - 5 p.m.
FREE Event 
Friday Fest - Reverend Barry and the Funk 
Fri., August 16 - 5 p.m.
FREE Event 
Friday Fest - Ari and the Alibis 
Fri., September 20 - 5 p.m.
FREE Event 
Escape to Margaritaville
Mon., Dec. 2 - 7:30 p.m. 
Beautiful:  The Carole King Musical 
Fri., Dec. 13 - Sun., Dec. 15 
Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker 
Sat., Dec. 28 - 3 p.m. & 7 p.m.
To purchase tickets over the phone call 941-953-3368 or stop by the Box Office at 777 N.Tamiami Trail.   
For a complete schedule of events, visit

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Tom Barwin
City Manager