Saturday, September 03, 2005

Can the Magic of Harry Save Downtown?

A letter to the editor from developer Harry Rosenblum (Harry Plotter?) claims to have the answer for the Burns Square "neighborhood." According to Rosenblum, Burns Square will be saved if the city allows 10 story buildings with 50 units per acre density instead of the agreed upon (DTE zoning) 5 story height limit with 25 units per acre density.

He would have us believe that: "DTE (Down Town Edge) codes will force development limitations on owners that will effectively eliminate the magic of demographic diversity. Burns Square will either stagnate or become an exclusive enclave for the wealthy."

He continues: "If Burns Square is to continue its destiny as an artistic, diverse in-town neighborhood, the commissioners must increase density, find intelligent answers to parking and allow the entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector to create an exciting and diverse urban environment."

Wow! Quite a statement from a developer.

During the downtown building boom of the last couple years, all the condos built, have been and continue to be targeted at incomes much higher than the typical Sarasota working resident can afford. This includes working artists. His "concern" for artist and diversity is not supported by reality.

We are also concerned with diversity in the downtown area. We need to find ways for people of all income levels, ages, skills and interests to live (hint: affordable) as well as visit downtown. We have commented on this many times in previous posts. Only with a truly diverse mix of people will downtown become lively. Now we have a lively downtown at lunch time when workers, visitors and people that live near downtown populate the sidewalks. When evening arrives, only the restaurants and bars show signs of life, except for the occasional Friday night art walk.

Then there is the Saturday Farmers Market. This draws a truly diverse group and it is very lively with social as well as commercial activity. A great model to emulate.

Andres Duany indicated that the Burns Court area as well as Laurel Park were perfect "walk to town" neighborhoods and should not be changed. We believe he was right.

We just can’t figure out how another 10 story building with high priced condos will help the artists or the "magic of demographic diversity". A true bit of magic would be to find a way to develop affordable housing in and near downtown. How about it Harry?

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