Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Sweet Success? Only Time Will Tell

We recently received a copy of this e-mail:

I am concerned about the recent threat to the Pastry Art Bakery coming from the Isaac Brothers new development, Pineapple Square. The development is not even approved by the City Commission and the developer is already engaged in heavy handed tactics with local merchants. I go to Pastry Art several times a week, including Saturdays during the Downtown Farmer's Market.

It is a wonderful local business with fantastic food, coffee and friendly wait staff. These people will all lose their jobs in order for the City's downtown to get a "Crate and Barrel," "a Banana Republic" and more cookie cutter chain stores. Working at City Hall, I know that redevelopment and continued growth of downtown is important to the City.

But the City Commission must take a stand and decide what parts of downtown should be saved, preserved and enhanced before giving away more sidewalks, airspace, density and park land to developers. The preservation of small retail businesses on Main Street would be an excellent place to start.

I am also aware that the lovely antique business located at 127 S. Pineapple is likely to be bought out by Mr. Isaacs. This is a Florida Master Site File listed structure with some unique Mediterranean style window and roof elements. Another example of how downtown redevelopment without thought of the history of a place can destroy the very things that made many of us come to love Sarasota in the first place.

Please remember to preserve the character of the City while you encourage new development.

Susan Montgomery 2153 Sunnyside Place (District 1 Voter)

The story is covered in this week's Pelican Press. The Isaac's Group, new owners of the building that Pastry Art occupies, apparently decided to increase the rent dramatically. This would have forced the Pastry Art to close. However many loyal customers and residents that value out unique downtown businesses protested on behalf of Pastry Art. Soon the Mayor stepped in and was able to arrange an agreement that so far seems to allow the Pastry Art some breathing room.

We applaud the efforts by those that value our unique small businesses and Mayor Servian for quickly stepping in and finding an apparent solution.

However we also find this situation disturbing in that it provides a peek into the future of downtown. As developers purchase downtown properties, the prices they pay require much higher cash flow compared to the previous owner who had a much lower investment. This is the driving force for redevelopment. And while redevelopment has many good aspects, it will surely put much pressure on the small businesses we have when the rent bill comes around.

The long term future of many of these wonderful small businesses in downtown Sarasota is very much at risk. It will take a lot more than a quick meeting with the Mayor to save our downtown's unique character and businesses.


Joe Moraca said...

Bakery Cafe Coffee House or Crate & Barrel is the question....

I already have a crate and no need for a barrel. But I love Coffee and Baked Goods...

Bad joke aside I am also very concerned that downtown does not become "generica" we all need to support local business and mixed neighborhoods - if only people with million dollar condos and "mall stores" are downtown it won't be very much fun.

We also have to "educate" developers and residents that they will be better off in the long run....

Sarasota Secret Society Blogger said...

Forget about "educating" developers. You talk to them in dollars and cents, or they're not listening.

Stores and architecture like this can only be saved by very courageous City leaders who are willing to spend the money and time in numerous lawsuits, to set aside historical "areas", not just "sites". You cannot be successful building-by-building. It must be entire areas that are set aside. In historical areas, all existing buildings can only be refurbished, restored or renovated. Tearing them down in favor of new development is not an option. You see this successfully done in many European cities with structures that are hundreds of years old.

I have not seen any evidence of that courage in today's local leaders.

Anonymous said...

Being a lover of old buildings and historic preservation I have learned that you cannot protect old buildings by designating them or anything in fact. If someone that owns the structure and wants to take it down they can, regardless of how old it is. Sad but true so you just hope people that buy old structures want to preserve them. I think it is a little unrealistic to think a one story structure on Main Street is going to get a lot of support because this is the center of downtown and it will get bigger and not stay as in the 1950's - at least most of hope so. There are cities that take money to subsidize the type of businesses they want in a town but that will mean we have to accept paying more taxes. People already complain about the taxes they pay to the hospital, county, schools and city.