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A New Park Destination Is Shaping Up at Sarasota’s Bayfront

Many Sarasota residents surely miss GWIZ, the family-friendly science museum which closed in 2012 after nearly two decades of operations. In the near future, however, the former museum’s site on 1001 Boulevard of the Arts and its adjoining areas may again re-emerge as an exciting local destination for families.

This possibility looms to happen soon, as approvals are being secured for the construction of a multi-themed park in that Boulevard of the Arts site. The construction of this park is targeted to begin as early as the summer of 2020,

Notably, this undertaking represents just Phase 1 of The Bay, a larger project to develop a 53-acre, city-owned waterfront property north of downtown Sarasota. A partnership between the city government and the private sector, The Bay Sarasota, is in charge of this initiative overall.

The fund needed for the first phase is estimated at $25 million, which is now being completed with $20 million sought from private donors. Private commitments amounting to $15.5 million have already been secured for this initial phase of The Bay project.

Rich in Features

A nine-acre strip of land has been set for The Bay’s first phase. The park facilities in its blueprint essentially follow three main themes: recreation, fitness, and health; outdoor-enhanced and nature-based education; and arts and culture.

The initial design concepts for the park’s main structures have already been submitted to the city. The submitted plans include a shade canopy structure that would serve as a public gathering area. Designed to form a part of the heart of the Bay Park, the shaded canopy is planned for 5,000 square feet of space.

A 900-square-foot reading room is also included in the park’s planned structures. It will feature a covered and elevated deck over a stretch of mangroves and bayou on the park’s site. This setup, in turn, will provide charming natural views that encourage private and quiet reflection among visitors.

The site plan for The Bay’s first phase likewise injects recreational value from its planned spiral boardwalk overlooking Sarasota Bay. Significantly, this structure’s design as a spiraling pier has been adopted so as not to disturb the mangroves and seagrass in the area. The structure’s curving layout, moreover, would provide not only sunset views but also allow viewing underwater marine life.

Commercial Setup

Structures for some commercial activities are also part of The Bay project’s first phase. These are planned for the par’s food and beverage pavilion. Its features include a concession building designed with sales counter and prep kitchen.

Jon F. Swift Construction, a local company, has been contracted for Phase 1 of The Bay project. This outfit has successfully handled several park projects in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. These included the masterful makeover of the Bayfront Park in Longboat Key as well as the multimillion-dollar improvements in the Siesta Beach Park.

There are more facilities to be built for The Bay project once its first phase is completed. The project’s master plan also features the construction of a new performing arts center, a repurposing of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, as well as installation of a children’s playground and botanical gardens. All told, a total of $300 million is projected for spending in The Bay project which could take 10-15 years to complete.