CRA sets public workshop for Bridge Street improvements

Property owners and tenants will soon get their say on the future of Bridge Street.

Community Redevelopment Agency members Jan. 9 voted 7-0 to hold a public workshop at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, to hear opinions on possible improvements to the street.

Storyboards will be drawn by contractor Emily Anne Smith to show options, including changing the commercial strip to a one-way or closed street.

The CRA district is bordered by Cortez Road, Sarasota Bay, Fifth Street South and the Gulf of Mexico. The area was deemed blighted in 1992, leading to the creation of the CRA and the use of county tax funds to promote restoration, growth and tourism.

The CRA includes the mayor, city commissioners and two appointed members, John Horne and Ed Chiles.

Smith, who was hired by the CRA in August 2018 to provide an aesthetic vision for the historic district, said the workshop should provide the feedback she needs.

At the meeting Jan. 9, she told CRA members she is ready to get to work on her designs.

“I want you to let me do my job,” she said. “I have been pulled, stretched, in different directions for months. Give me something to do.”
Smith said she has a list of questions to present at the workshop.

One question is how best to supplement parking on Bridge Street. Smith said one idea is to shuttle people from Cortez Beach parking using golf carts.

Angela Rodocker, owner and operator of the BridgeWalk Resort, 100 Bridge St., attended the Jan. 9 meeting and told CRA members it is critical to bring the public into the discussion.

She said she would like to see Bridge Street change, but change shouldn’t be rushed.

City Commissioner Ralph Cole, who chairs the CRA, said he would visit businesses on Bridge Street to notify owners and tenants of the workshop.

Mayor John Chappie, a CRA member, said no motions or vote would be taken at the workshop.

The next CRA meeting will be 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.