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City unveils conceptual plan for island's civic core project

April 1, 2014
By MCKENZIE CASSIDY ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

A conceptual plan for Sanibel Island's Civic and Culture Core project was released and approved by city council on April 1.

Mayor Kevin Ruane said that without approving the conceptual plan the city couldn't move forward with determining a budget, structure, referendums, and any other issues that may surface.

"Without a conceptual plan we can't come up with a budget, can't have council members or people advocate for grants or money from the state," said Ruane.

The mayor also stressed that the plan wasn't written in stone.

"This doesn't preclude us from tweaking," he said.

Ruane said there have been 33 versions so far and the city has worked with stakeholders and interested parties along the way to address potential issues.

"This is a conceptual plan and everyone realizes there will be continuing tweaks," said Vice Mayor Doug Congress. "The process so far has worked incredibly."

The idea of a civic core was to create a campus-style district that centralized popular city attractions in one location to ease local concerns over public safety, traffic, and parking. BIG ARTS, the Sanibel Community Association, Center-4-Life, and other organizations are part of the core.

Henry Woodroffe, of Woodroffe Corporation Architects, discussed the conceptual plan with members of council, explaining that there have been a number of workshops with stakeholders to collect as much input as possible and to ensure that the project stayed true to the city's vision of being a walking and biking community.

The concept presented on April 1 took traffic and parking away from Periwinkle North, he said, and a redistribution of major parking elements doubled the amount of available space.

City Manager Judith Zimomra explained that city events would have the option of choosing either the community green or plaza for annual festivals, and the proposed Sanibel Community Association facility would accommodate an additional 23,000 square-feet of space. The Sanibel Farmers Market would be operated in the same location but with better access to parking and restrooms, she added.

Members of council also discussed plans to slightly shift Dunlop Road south of City Hall. Council Member Mick Denham said he supported the conceptual plan but recommended caution in moving the road because visitors often described it as pleasant and attractive. He also said he wanted to make sure that the architecture of the core stays consistent with the rest of the community.

Island resident Ralph Clark, also a member of BIG ARTS, said stakeholders have been working closely with the city for about a year.

"Everyone agreed that this was a plan we could work with," he said.



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