Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization to realize community vision

Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization to realize community vision

Posted on August 01, 2016 by Michael Klauber

Editor's Note: Michael Klauber is leading a community effort to form the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization. The following remarks were shared during a briefing with Sarasota City Commissioners. 

We have been on an important journey, and one rarely seen in our community history. When the journey is complete, the city-owned 42 acres on Sarasota's bayfront will be a reality of a vision that our community supported through the creation of six powerful guiding principles.

• Creation of a great public space that will celebrate our beautiful bay

• A cultural center that heightens the cultural brand of our city

• Engaging families through a destination that is welcoming and safe

• Celebrate the implementation of a successful master plan

We have spent the past months detailing the manner in which the community’s vision and principles will become reality.

• Our guiding principles must be incorporated as our “Bible” going forward. This will guide our efforts and keep us focused through this journey.

• We must conduct a highly professional planning process

• And it must rise above conflicts, fragmentation and self-interest

• Most importantly, we must continue our focus on the needs of the broader Sarasota community as embodied in the guiding principles

A community vision of success

For nearly three years, Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 has worked to build a coalition and consensus.

There are now 53 organizations whose boards have adopted the vision and guiding principles. Our newest stakeholders are the Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation and Plymouth Harbor. We expect that number to continue to grow. We have held and hosted more than 200 meetings across our community to ensure inclusion and transparency.

We continue to interact with these Bayfront 20:20 stakeholders at each step along the way. Outstanding input has been gathered and consensus building has been a treasured outcome. We held our most recent stakeholder update on June 29. Our website, emails and social media communications are consistent and timely.

We have a very clear message of what our community desires for the 42-acre bayfront site. Our community’s message is defined in the guiding principles:

• Creating a destination that furthers our cultural vitality, space for recreation, and a place for educational opportunities to blossom – all embodied in our community’s vision

• Green space for families and citizens will make this the centerpiece of our community

• And the connectivity to our neighborhoods will illustrate that our great city is a tapestry of unique and vibrant neighborhoods

Creating a structure for a planning organization

After our presentation in February, my worry was – how do we deliver on what the community needs and desires? I went home that night, there was no way to rest my brain and my thoughts were racing. How are we going to accomplish this vital task?

I have no problem running a restaurant and catering business, but creating a new planning organization is just not something I have ever done.

Soon after that meeting, in a timely conversation with Debra Jacobs, The Patterson Foundation stepped forward by providing an experienced facilitator and world-class business consultant, Dr. Richard Hays, to start the planning for the planning organization. His experience and leadership, working with companies and organizations around the world has proven to be invaluable.

I invited a small group of committed individuals with diverse expertise and backgrounds to join me to develop the structure for a successful planning organization. This group has taken off the hats of their everyday priorities and solely focused on creating a successful structure to lead our community through this once in a generation process.


  • Jon Thaxton brings the dimension of community investment, awareness of philanthropy and broad government knowledge. Jon has been onboard, through the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, from the very early days of our Bayfront 20:20 work.



  • Shaun Merriman wears the hat of the nonprofit board chair and vast experience and awareness of our business community as a result of his work as a successful banker, his time with the Chamber of Commerce and his service as Chair of the Van Wezel Foundation.



  •  Joe McKenna remains the only person who was deeply involved in the last Bayfront planning effort in the early 2000’s. He brings knowledge and history that has contributed greatly to this effort since beginning of our Bayfront 20:20 efforts as well.



  • Bob Easterle reminds us regularly that the City and our community are made up of diverse and vibrant neighborhoods who share an interest in achieving the community vision for the site. As a former Chairman of CCNA – his neighborhood perspective has been a great asset.


Our focus has been to design the framework for an organization to create the master plan. This is no small task! This Framework Team has worked for more than three months, mostly twice a week for two-hour sessions, to create a draft structure for a planning organization.

To be clear, we have only been working on the structure and an outline of the work that will be done by the planning organization. We have not done any master planning for the 42 acres. We wanted to be sure to have the best structure in place for the professional master planning effort. We are proposing that the new planning organization be responsible for producing a masterplan. The construction plan and ongoing oversight of the bayfront is expected to emerge out of the master planning process.

Where are we headed from here?

• Sarasota Bayfront 20:20 will continue as a strong volunteer community organization. Communication with the community will ensure continued transparency throughout this process.

• Board members of the planning organization will be recruited. Engaging the brightest minds to serve on this board will be the precursor to success.

• On May 16, we held a historic first-time-ever meeting with the leaders of the six major foundations in Sarasota County: The Gulf Coast Community Foundation, The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, The Patterson Foundation, The Barancik Foundation, the Selby Foundation and the Virginia Toulmin Foundation. We invited the foundations to offer suggestions on selection criteria and also potential candidates that might serve on the planning organization. The positive response from the foundations has been affirming and offers another illustration of strong community backing.

• Elevating our fundraising efforts will be key to achieving success and we have begun that process.

• Establishing the structure, and formal aspects of the planning organization will be of equal importance.

• After establishing the board and securing funding, the planning organization can search for a professional project manager and select, by competitive process, a national planning firm. Our goal would be to have both in place by early 2017.

• Finally, at the end of the master planning, the planning organization will “sunset” and it is expected that a new organization would use the planning organization-generated master plan for construction, development and finally, ongoing management of the site.

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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