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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Jul. 23, 2004 15 years ago

Coffee Talk (Sara/Mana edition)

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This week's items: Downtown platform that needs a candidateSave water, have a cold oneStudying really pays offBanker of the Year Nomination

Downtown platform that needs a candidate

Always one to think the city of Sarasota could be better, Gil Waters, a founder of FCCI Insurance and the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, has crafted another downtown plan that hearkens back to the mid-1960s.

At that time, Waters was one of two candidates vying for election to the Sarasota City Commission. But rather than tout their virtues, candidates Waters and Glenn Rose campaigned as proponents of a multifaceted program that included building the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, the construction of Bayfront Park and rerouting of U.S. 41 from Main Street to its present configuration.

It was a winning game plan. Waters and Rose were elected, and voters approved a bond issue for their downtown plan.

Though Waters has no intention of running again for Sarasota City Commission, he nonetheless thinks it's time for candidates to get behind a new seven-point program that would add amenities to the downtown area via use of the city's tax increment financing.

Waters says the TIF district currently is generating about $4.5 million a year, and before long that amount will grow to $10 million a year. All that cash easily could be leveraged to service a big bond issue, says Waters. Here's how Waters thinks that money should be used:

× Build a downtown conference center.

× Implement the Mobility Now! transportation improvement plan for the U.S. 41-Gulfstream Avenue intersection, a plan the Bayfront Condominium Association and residents of the barrier islands strongly endorse.

× Install pedestrian sleeves and crossing islands downtown.

× Construct a Main Street "skyway plaza" and walkway to Marina Jack. Waters envisions a pedestrian bridge over Tamiami Trail, complete with escalators at both ends and a plaza large enough to accommodate refreshment kiosks and musical entertainment groups.

× A downtown parking garage.

× A public bay walk that stretches from the Marie Selby Botanical Garden all the way to New College.

× Car-free Main Street from Gulfstream to Orange Avenues. Waters says this area "should become a landscaped pedestrian shopping, dining and walking amenity from, say, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

"That's how we did it in 1964," Waters says, referring to this package of projects. "That's how we now have Marina Jack, Bayfront Drive, Bayfront Park, City Hall, Fruitville Road, Ringling Boulevard and the Van Wezel."

Anyone care to be a candidate to push this agenda?

Save water, have a cold one

John Saputo, owner of Sarasota-based Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, is always one to turn adversity into an opportunity.

After seeing his name and address listed recently in The Longboat Observer as one of Longboat Key's largest water users, Saputo decided to turn the publicity into a marketing opportunity.

At last week's Gulf Coast Business Review "40 Under 40" Awards Breakfast, where Saputo was the keynote speaker, he told the audience of his dubious water distinction in The Longboat Observer and jokingly said he and his neighbors have dubbed The Observer's editor, Matt Walsh, "The Water Nazi."

But to show Longboaters he'd do his part to conserve water, Saputo said he planned to apply for a permit to dig an irrigation well and, more important, he had devised a new marketing campaign to urge Longboaters to conserve water. At this point, Saputo unrolled and held up a large color poster. It said: "Save Water, Drink Budweiser."

To promote his new campaign on Longboat, Saputo dared Walsh to carry the poster down Gulf of Mexico Drive.

Tuesday morning, Walsh did. He stood in the middle of Gulf of Mexico Drive waving the sign at passersby like a candidate stumping for office.

The responses from motorists were priceless. One elderly man glared at Walsh with obvious disgust. Another chuckled. But one man, in a pickup, honked approval and gave the "thumbs up."

Studying really pays off

Readers of the GCBR's "40 Under 40" edition last week may recall that the books on the nightstand of honoree Dr. Cynthia Hornback are "Taking Control of Your Fertility," by Toni Weschler, and InStyle magazine.

In her bio, Hornback, owner of Sarasota-based Hornback Chiropractic and Wellness PA, said: "Can you tell I want to have kids and that they will be fabulously dressed?"

Well, the nighttime reading apparently paid off. As Hornback was leaving the 40 Under 40 breakfast celebration, she told Coffee Talk she is pregnant. The baby is due in March. Hornback and her husband, Charles, don't know the baby's sex and so they haven't discussed names. But Coffee Talk thinks "Review Hornback" has a nice ring. Congratulations to the Hornbacks.

Banker of the Year Nomination

In late August, GCBR will announce the name of its third annual "Banker of the Year." Nominees may be a bank president or CEO who has guided an institution to a record performance. Or maybe they guided their bank out of a financial slump or other trauma. They could be private client officers who have excelled at attracting top customers. They are the bankers in Sarasota and Manatee counties responsible for extraordinary performance, efficiency and/or turnaround efforts.

Submit nominations by Aug. 9 with the name, employer and telephone number of the nominee, along with the reason for the nomination. Send to Associate Editor Fran Gilpin at [email protected] or by fax at (941) 362-4808 or (813) 221-9403.

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