Meet the Team is a series of interviews featuring the various professionals on our project team – both in-front and behind-the-scenes – who regularly provide valuable input, countless design iterations, environmental surveys and much more. Without these talented individuals, we would not be where we are today in realizing the possibilities of The Bay Park.
Philip, a local Sarasotan by way of New York, joined The Bay’s planning and design team as the Project Planner and was involved in the Master Plan process prior to kicking-off Phase 1. Kimley-Horn, a planning, engineering and design consulting firm, has been responsible for coordinating The Bay’s development approvals for the Mangrove Walk and Phase 1 Site Plan, which Philip has been integrally involved in. Along with entitlements and permitting, Philip also played a role in the design of the bicycle and pedestrian improvements as well as the public involvement and outreach for the entire project. We interviewed Philip to learn a bit more about his background and what excites him about the future of The Bay.
Can you share a bit more about your background, experience and personal story?
“I have worked at Kimley-Horn as a project planner/manager for over three years focusing on redevelopment and bicycle/pedestrian planning. Prior to consulting, I worked for Manatee County where I helped coordinate their Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan, sustainability initiatives, and Affordable Housing Overlay District. I am a staunch advocate of public service and view this vocation as a lifelong dedication to a higher quality of life in our community through a more equitable, healthy, and prosperous built environment. I serve on the board for local and state planning organizations, volunteer at area grade schools and serve on the City of Sarasota Board of Adjustments. I like to think the foundation for my career was set when my family moved to Sarasota from New York in the early-2000’s. Having to ask my parents to drive me to a new friend’s home because I couldn’t get there on foot or bike taught me a lesson about how our environment influences day-to-day life.”
What is your favorite park and your contribution or role in development? What are some important design elements in The Bay or other projects?
“My favorite local parks are Bayfront Park and the Celery Fields. The former for the views and amenities and the latter because of the unique environmental role (ecosystem/wildlife habitat, flood control, filtration, etc.) it plays in our region. My favorite park of all time goes to Central Park in New York City. My father worked in the park when I was growing up, so I spent a lot of time there as a kid. It has absolutely shaped my view of what a tangible asset a world-class park can be, and the genuine impact it can have on the people who live, work and spend time within.”
What parallels or common inspirations do you see between Central Park and The Bay?
“Truthfully too many parallels to count. From a city planning point of view, Central Park ties all of these unique neighborhood’s together, cinching the business district of Midtown with Upper Manhattan (Harlem, Upper West/ East Side), and is the setting for world-class cultural institutions (The Met, American Museum of Natural History, Guggenheim Museum). The Bay is sited similarly, connecting downtown Sarasota, the Rosemary district, and Central/Cocoanut and will be home to similar arts and culture institutions. In terms of function, Central Park is known as the ‘Green Lung’ of New York and our goal is to create a green and blue oasis for Sarasota’s growing city and its suburbs. Lastly, I think of my personal connection with Central Park and the sense of wonder it impressed on me. Climbing huge rocks, visiting the zoo, watching model boats, and seeing busts of bygone historical figures was a galaxy away from seeing my father at work or visiting my grandmother in Washington Heights. I believe The Bay will provide a similar backdrop for those who live or visit our town, and maybe it will similarly inspire the generations that enjoy it.”
What excites you about The Bay Park design/plan, process, and team? What is your favorite and most rewarding part of the work?
“The most exciting thing about The Bay Park is the incredible support from the community. Attending the initial input meetings and seeing the passion for the park from those within the community — something you don’t typically see at public meetings — reinforced my perception that this is a special project for all of Sarasota. The most rewarding part of the work relates to the creation of a great public space. Often the most meaningful parts of life can be found in a shared experience. The opportunity to contribute to a public space like The Bay where generations of people from all backgrounds will share experiences, is a privilege.”
What parts of Phase 1 are you, your family and/or friends most looking forward to?
“The Kayak Launch and the Sunset Boardwalk are certainly the highlights of the Phase 1 plan for me, my family, and my friends. There are a few places I love to bring visitors from out of town when they come to visit: a walk over the Ringling Bridge, Indigenous or Owen’s Fish Camp for dinner, and paddle boarding through the mangroves on South Lido. These places represent what is uniquely Sarasota to me and capture what I like to call the ‘paradise’ moment. The Bay, and the Phase 1 Kayak Launch and Sunset Boardwalk, distill that ‘paradise’ moment and bottle it up for everyone (regardless of your ability to walk uphill or balance on a board) to experience. Everyone I know or speak to about the park is excited about that.
One other thing I’d like to mention – The Bay is a space that essentially functions as a park today, despite a lack of amenities that would indicate it or make it conducive to leisure and recreation. If you visit the Van Wezel parking lot at sunset you may be shocked by the amount of people setting up blankets, lawn chairs, playing music, or strolling down the sidewalk (I’ve seen kids kicking soccer balls around and families with their electric grills cooking up hotdogs). In a beautifully strange way, Sarasotans have already selected and activated this space as a park. Our goal as a team is simple: make the space the best it possibly could be.”