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Public gets look at Civic Core plan

By Staff | Nov 7, 2013

JIM LINETTE It was standing room only at Sanibel City Hall Tuesday when City Council revealed the revised master plan concept for the Civic Core project. Board members of various non-profits to be located in the Civic Core and interested island residents were on hand to hear the presentation by architect Henry Woodroffe, who has been working with city staff and others to design the property layout.

The master plan for the proposed Civic Core project is coming to life. The public got its first look at concept drawings at the start of the City Council meeting Tuesday in City Hall.

The master plan concept is the work of architect Henry Woodroffe, who has met with the city staff, council, city manager and the non-profit organizations destined to be located in the Civic Core. Over the past several months, the wishes and needs of the city and the organizations have been discussed at a variety of meetings and workshops that led to the concept plan presented on Tuesday.

About the only concept missing was financing plan and a start date for construction.

“Financing will be done with every outside grant we can get,” said Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane. “The cost will be bourne by the grants and the entities involved, not by city taxpayers.”

Ruane envisions another meeting among the parties “to make sure everyone is on board” while making revisions to the plan. The non-profits to occupy new space in the Civic Core include Big Arts, the Herbert Strauss Theater, Center 4 Life and Sanibel Community Association (SCA).

“It makes sense to keep Public Works where it is because of the work and services that it does,” said Woodroffe. “We have incorporated green spaces throughout and a community green space, which is 2 1/2 times the space existing at Sanibel Community House across the road.”

The community green space, essentially the parcel on which the Herb Strauss Theater currently sits, would accommodate the popular seasonal outdoor functions on the island with room to expand.

Big Arts and Center 4 Life sit side-by-side near Public Works serviced by a 210-space parking lot to the east. Green space courtyard and plaza separates the two from the SCA building nearby, serviced by a 140-space parking lot. Bike and pedestrian pathways connect all of the buildings with Dunlop road looping all the way around and through the property that currently serves the Sanibel Library, City Hall and the Historical Museum & Village to the west each with its own parking lot as well.

“This is a historically significant project,” Ruane told the gathering. “We will look for every grant available to bring this forward. This is your project and it is planned for you.”

One SCA representative told council that the concept “is not there yet.” Moving across Periwinkle Way is a tough decision for the organization, no question. SCA wants to keep a visible presence on Periwinkle and the new location does not achieve that goal. They still have to decide if the Community House would be relocated or not.

All of the other stakeholders are fully behind the project. Big Arts, however, is studying what to do about the Strauss Theater building, whether to build new or move it to the new locations. While committed to the project, Big Arts considers the Civic Core “the next 30 years” for them.

Vice Mayor Doug Congress indicated he has been waiting for the detractors to come forward.

“It hasn’t happened,” said Congress. “Instead I sense a lot of positive energy for this. At some point it will come down to dollars and cents realities, but the last thing you should expect from us as a council is to put the residents’ money in jeopardy.”

“I think we are 70 or 80 percent to consensus,” added Ruane. “I envision one more meeting, perhaps within the next 30 days, with more refinements to make sure we can facilitate the project.”

In answer to a question from the public, Ruane said at some point there probably will be a referendum on some aspects of the Civic Core “for you to vote on.”

If ready, the resulting revised plan could be brought back before the next City Council meeting on Dec. 3 for more public viewing and comment.

“I think we are on the right track,” chimed in councilman Mick Denham. “We all have to be patient with the process. This needs to be park-like and preserve as many trees as possible. Otherwise I have not many concerns, very positive.”

Councilman Marty Harrity connected the dots on the current project to last year’s decisions on the maintenance needs of the Center 4 Life building.

“I think the senior center was a catalyst to bring this together all because we couldn’t move that darn wall,” Harrity said. “We need to work together as a team. That’s what’s happening, and I say if you want this then let’s do it!”

Woodroffe’s presentation points and Civic Core master plan concept site drawings can be accessed on www.mysanibel.com.