- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly described the future of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. The fate of the existing building hasn't yet been determined.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Friday a $10.4 million grant for projects meant to protect Sarasota against the impacts of climate change and address other environmental issues.
In one of these projects, the city will raise Van Wezel Way – the road that leads to the iconic Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall – to a prepare it for future sea level rise.
“Continued vitality of the state really does require us to be focusing on key infrastructure improvements,” DeSantis said in a ceremony at the performing arts hall, with Sarasota Bay as a backdrop.
The announcement highlighted the state's award to the city of Sarasota of a federal grant of more than $10.4 million for several projects relating to The Bay Park on Sarasota Bay.
The city and the nonprofit Bay Park Conservancy are planning to turn 53 acres on Sarasota’s bayfront into an urban oasis. The park, which is under construction, will have an open lawn, a walkable mangrove bayou and a circular sunset boardwalk over Sarasota Bay, among other features.
The city is also planning to raise Van Wezel Way to an elevation of a little more than 6 feet above sea level. This number was calculated using projections of future sea rise.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever driven Van Wezel Way during a rain event – it floods,” City Manager Marlon Brown said.
The city also plans to use the state-awarded grant to restore Hog Creek, which is a stream at the northern end of the future Bay Park.
Workers will make stormwater improvements and add native plants to the creek, which flows into the bay. These plants will remove pollution from the water, so they’re envisioned as a way to combat red tide, which is fed by nutrients, such as nitrogen, in runoff.
The grant will also be used to improve the shoreline at The Bay Park, according to the governor. The improvements will protect the area from erosion, storms and flooding, according to city spokeswoman Jan Thornburg.
Mayor Erik Arroyo said the grant means that the state sees the city of Sarasota’s vision for stronger environmental resiliency.
“It ensures that generations of Sarasotans can enjoy this Bay Park that we’re creating and we can ensure that our city adapts to climate change,” he said.
The grant money comes from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program. The state of Florida decides who to give that federal money to.
“This will have a significant impact,” DeSantis said of the grant, “and I think the city will make good use of the funds.”
DeSantis is at the start of an election year, and his announcement in Sarasota was a way for him to boost his image on environmental issues in a place where the environment is an key part of people’s quality of life.
The governor’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2022-23 includes over $550 million to increase the resiliency of Florida’s coastal and inland communities.
Anne Snabes covers city and county government for the Herald-Tribune. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (941) 228-3321 and follow her on Twitter at @a_snabes.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Sarasota to get money for environmental projects, DeSantis announces