Preserve the BayFront's Magic
by Lorrie Muldowney, President
When I think of the Sarasota Bayfront, I think magic, and I’m not alone! Prehistoric Indian middens along Sarasota Bay attest to the draw of the water, as did the early settlers of today’s Osprey, who so loved their deep connection with Little Sarasota Bay that they named their skiff Magic.
Our connection to the water has been demonstrated by many noteworthy waterfront buildings. Recently named one of the 10 best cities in the South by Southern Living magazine, Sarasota has strong ties to its coastal locations that are often reflected in the design and location of our buildings.
Because of our community’s connection to the water, recent redevelopment plans for Sarasota’s Bayfront have generated significant community conversations involving issues of access, recreation, safety and historic preservation.
Throughout the country, the recognition of the historic significance of 20th-century resources and the threat of changes in sea level have been identified as the two of the most important challenges facing our communities.
Both issues are a consideration for preserving the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the Gulf Coast Wonder and Imagination Zone, G.Wiz, known to many as the former Selby Library building.
No single answer exists, but the extensive removal of iconic structures from our waterfronts because of their vulnerable locations is a solution deemed unacceptable to many, including citizens, planners, architects and historic preservationists. Imagine Key West without the Ernest Hemingway home or Miami Beach without the Fontainebleau.
Construction of the Van Wezel was funded by a 1967 city bond referendum that was championed by one of Sarasota’s most devoted arts patrons and thenmayor, David Cohen. City officials adopted a selection committee’s recommendation to retain the services of Taliesin Associated Architects of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to design the building.
A recent study by the Van Wezel Foundation concluded that the hall should be replaced, in part because of the difficulty of renovating it in compliance with Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations.
If historically designated, the Van Wezel could be exempted from those requirements. Provisions in the regulations were developed to allow for the rehabilitation of historic structures that are vulnerable to threats from wind and water, in recognition of their community importance.
G. Wiz was designed as a county library in 1975 by Walter Netsche of Skidmore Owings and Merrill. Selby Library was meant as an iconic piece of architecture in a community known for its architecture.
The library building was adaptively reused to serve as G. Wiz in 2000. It can be adaptively reused again.
The importance of adaptive reuse to the vitality of our cities and the historic preservation movement spurred the creation of the “ReUrbanism” program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. ReUrbanism is built on the principle that building reuse encourages economic growth and stimulates vibrant communities.
Both buildings are outstanding examples of 20th-century civic architecture and are potentially eligible for state grants.
The board of directors of the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation commends Sasaki Associates and members of The Bay for their tireless efforts to engage our community in the visioning process for the Bayfront.
We believe that incorporating these two historic buildings into their plans will enhance their final design and promote sustainability. Guest columnist Lorrie Muldowney is the president of the Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation, a nonprofit organization created to preserve and enhance our historic places.
Recent Media Coverage about Mable Ringling Memorial Fountain
Sarasota Alliance For Historic Preservation, inc. All rights Reserved
PO Box. 1754 - Sarasota, FL 34230 (941) 953-8727
An affiliate of the Sarasota History Alive! Network
Sarasota Alliance for Historic Preservation,Inc.
Post Office Box 1754
Sarasota, Florida 34230
Benefits of membership include participation in historic homes tours, walking tours, rehabilitation projects, workshops, seminars and much more. Please join us by completing this form and sending it to the address above in the Contact Us section.
You may also pay with PayPal.