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  • 13 Sep 2018 6:58 PM | Anonymous

    Sarasota No Leader in Voter Participation

    The effort to reschedule Sarasota’s city elections officially moved from its petition drive stage into a full-fledged campaign for change, this week launching anew as Change the Date Sarasota. And while a campaign announcement touts the bipartisan organization and the chance to strengthen turnout and improve the diversity of the active electorate, it’s important as well to remember his modest and unremarkable the proposed change could be for the city.

    That’s not an insult so much as an observation that Sarasota, historically viewed as the most important and progressive community in Southwest Florida, lags behind its neighbors in the simple mission to vote at a time that makes sense for voters.

    City of Bradenton voters, for example, long voted in November but used to do so in odd-numbered years. But electors opted nearly a decade ago to abandon that practice and move contests to even-numbered years, just like the state does it. The move saved an estimated $110,000 a year, but more importantly, it saw a massive surge in turnout, from 14 percent voter participation in its last off-year election (November 2009) to about 66 percent participation in its most recent municipal contests (November of 2016).

    And in cities like Venice, you can easily compare elections held in odd-numbered years and even-numbered ones. For example, voter turnout in city contests there in 2017 was about 33 percent. But in the citywide mayoral contest in Venice in 2016, almost 71 percent of voters turned out.

    Heck, in the city of North Port, more than 65 percent of voters weighed in on a charter amendment in November 2016.

    Compare all this to turnout in the City of Sarasota. In May of 2017, the last time the City of Sarasota held an election, just under 23 percent of voters came out to elect new Commissioners Jennifer Ahearn-Koch and Hagen Brody. That’s pathetic in comparison to any ballot measure or commission election held at a regularly scheduled time (referenda and board vacancies will inevitably bring oddly scheduled and poorly attended special elections from time to time).

    Now that’s not to undermine the success of these individuals, who in fact won election to office by a record-setting number of supporters. But isn’t that sad? These individuals rode into office on mandates unlike anyone in a Sarasota city election ever enjoyed, yet their level of community support seems dwarfed when compared to officials on the

    Sarasota County charter review and hospital boards—where every election in November 2016 drew greater than a 66-percent turnout—by virtue of those entities getting elected alongside governors and presidents.

    The thing is, Sarasota likes to think of itself as the region’s leader in political deliberation and consideration. Elections here become rowdy affairs. A special city meeting on a master planning document drew a standing-room-only crowd to commission chambers just two days ago.

    But when you look at the level of involvement in city democracy, Sarasota can’t boast of its leadership. The community in fact lags behind neighbor to the north often dismissed as denizens of backward Bradentucky.

    Sarasota, of course, continues to be the county seat, the cultural capital and the home to nearly every major news outlet serving the region. But on the issue of community involvement, it needs to do some catch-up on the fundamental process of holding a citywide vote. Fortunately, voters soon get the chance to remedy the problem.

    And they will do so in a November election.

    Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ Media Group.

  • 31 Aug 2018 10:52 AM | Anonymous

    Snell Engineering Consultants (“Snell”) is pleased to announce the addition of two new team members. Katie O’Neill joins Snell as Project Engineer, and Anamaria Brown joins as BIM Specialist.

    Snell’s newest Structural Engineer, Katie O’Neill, is a recent graduate of Cornell University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil/Structural Engineering. She has unique experience as a member of the concrete canoe and steel bridge engineering project teams at Cornell. Additional projects include an elevated pedestrian walkway over traffic, the structural restoration of 100-year-old wooden trusses in a courthouse attic, a curved I-beam highway bridge, and various additions to existing buildings.

    Outside of work, Ms. O’Neill enjoys music, art, cooking and traveling. At Cornell, she led a 15-member a cappella group and was section leader of the university chorus. She harnesses her creativity within her work, allowing her to approach engineering problems with ingenuity. Ms. O’Neill looks forward to growth in her role at a Snell, as the prominent local firm will afford her exposure to a wide range of projects and diverse responsibilities.

    Anamaria Brown has also been added to the firm’s staff as a BIM Specialist. Ms. Brown holds a Masters Degree in Structural Engineering from the Institutul Politechnic Cluj Napoca Romania, as well as over a decade of engineering experience with SOM’s office in Chicago. Some highlights of her experience include major entertainment and commercial structures in cities like London, Chicago, Barcelona, Charlotte and Honolulu. She speaks fluent Hungarian and Romanian. “Anamaria's hire further reinforces our commitment to being at the leading edge of building design technology as Snell continues to be a leader amongst peers in building information modeling,” says Curtis Ross, Managing Principal.

    For more information on Snell Engineering Consultants, Inc. and its projects and services, please visit

  • 23 Aug 2018 3:52 PM | Anonymous

    Local construction management firm, Firmo Construction, known for their work with the Circle House and the Warm Mineral Springs Resort, is delighted to announce its latest project. The company will be creating build-outs for multiple new businesses in the growing Rosemary District of Downtown Sarasota in partnership with well-known community figures, such as Mark Kauffman and Red Property Management. Aiming for completion in fall 2018, Firmo is working closely with business owners within the new Rosemary Square building to construct the spaces they envision. The build-outs will include spaces for Pura Vie Spa, Wonder Cake Creations, and The Sarasota Ballet.

    With ambitious project scheduling and coordination, as well as a push in production for a swift turnaround, Firmo has worked closely with each business to provide tailored solutions to unique problems, such as reduction in sound transmission for quiet studio spaces. The addition of the building is a small part of revitalization efforts occurring in the Rosemary District, and Firmo Construction is excited to contribute and collaborate with local figures like Jonathan Parks of Solstice Architecture for some of the build-outs.

  • 09 Aug 2018 4:54 PM | Anonymous
    The Atlanta Braves spring training facility under construction calls for hundreds of workers, pounds of steel and cubic yards of concrete. A sneak peek reveals progress made and challenges ahead before the team can 'play ball.'

    by: Grier Ferguson Staff Writer

    Next spring will mean a fresh start for the Atlanta Braves.

    But to get to fresh start, first the Braves, through a handful of partners and entities, are engaged in a massive and unique, one-time, $125 million made on the Gulf Coast manufacturing project: a brand new baseball stadium. 


    Project. Atlanta Braves spring training stadium and facility. 

    Industry. Construction 

    Key. Outlast weather dealys. 

    The Major League baseball team is moving its spring training base from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando to West Villages, a master-planned community in North Port, a south Sarasota County city. With the move, the Braves will become the 10th Major League team, in what's called the Grapefruit League, to hold spring training on the west coast of Florida, from Lakeland through Fort Myers. Unlike most other teams, this stadium is the rare one to be made from scratch. 

    Lori Sax. Braves Vice President of Florida Operations Mike Dunn, Tandem Construction Senior Vice President Brian Leaver and Fawley Bryant Architecture Project Manager Kirk Bauer look at plans for the Braves facility.

    Braves Vice President of Florida Operations Mike Dunn says as other teams relocate from Central Florida, the North Port location will give them an edge — less time traveling. “Here we’re closer to the competition,” Dunn says. “Plus it’s a beautiful area.”

    The Braves aim to play their first game in North Port in March 2019. But to do that, construction on the team’s new complex will have to be finished. That means the project team will have to keep plowing ahead — and keep dodging raindrops.

    By the Numbers
    • 325 subcontractors are on site working in all areas of the complex.
    • 1,200 tons of steel has been erected for the stadium.
    • 12,360 cubic yards of concrete have been poured for the stadium.
    • The heaviest tilt-wall installed at the stadium was 69.5 tons.

    After an October 2017 groundbreaking, foundation work started in December. Now about 40% of the project is complete, says Fawley Bryant Architecture Project Manager Kirk Bauer.

    Getting to that point has meant some six-day work weeks and even, at times, seven-day weeks for some members of the team. Bauer says the project boils down to creating an entire 80-acre campus from a blank slate.

    Courtesy. A rendering of the new Atlanta Braves spring training stadium under construction in North Port.

    In addition to the Braves, partners contributing to the $125 million price tag include Mattamy Homes and the West Villages Improvement District. Florida, North Port and Sarasota County are also funding parts of the project. 

    Dunn says the facility, with practice fields, an observation tower and a clubhouse, will serve as a baseball-manufacturing complex for the team. “Every component of the Atlanta Braves will be produced here,” he says.

    Lori Sax. The inside of the stadium under construction.

    For fans, meanwhile, the stadium has a 360-degree concourse walkway so all elements of the game are visible, Bauer says. The facility includes 6,200 fixed seats and 1,000 berm seats.

    The stadium will also have a grassy knoll and an outfield patio and bar area. “We want the experience for the fan to be overwhelming,” says Dunn. The goal? Dunn says it’s to get the fan to say, “Oh my gosh, there’s so much to see and do.”

    What’s the biggest manufacturing challenge you’ve had to overcome?

    Summer storms present some signficant challenges at the Braves spring training construction site in North Port. “The biggest problem we’ve had lately is the rain,” says Fawley Bryant Architecture Project Manager Kirk Bauer. To make up for it, he says, “a lot of people have been working overtime.”

    Gray skies frequently threaten rain, and when lightning is involved, that means workers must stop and retreat until it has passed. Braves Vice President of Florida Operations Mike Dunn says, “We understand we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.”

    In an internal report detailing construction progress and events during mid-July, officials write that lightning occurs daily around 2:30 p.m. and holds up work activities for up to two-and-a-half hours.

    Weather or not, the overall plan remains the same: fans in seats, players on the field and bats swinging in March 2019.

    A plaza on the campus will be open regularly to the public and fields will be available for use, too. “It’s more about bringing the community to this site,” Bauer says. “It’s not just a ballpark.”

    To build the complex, the team is using a large local workforce.

    Tandem Construction Senior Vice President Brian Leaver says that includes companies that have done good work in the past with the general contractor. “We’re working with partners we know,” he says, including Fawley Bryant and several subcontractors. “That’s why they’re here. We know they can perform.”

    “It’s more about bringing the community to this site. It’s not just a ballpark.” — Kirk Bauer, project manager, Fawley Bryant Architecture

    Part of what makes the project interesting, Leaver says, is the variety of materials, including clay, rock and sand. “It’s a lot of fun,” he says. “You don’t get to build Major League fields or stadiums very often.”

    For Bauer, some of the excitement surrounding the new stadium has to do with tradition. When construction is done, it will become a place where traditions are born, he says, like children going to their first Atlanta Braves baseball game. “This will be the start of them being Braves fans.”

  • 02 Aug 2018 11:37 PM | Anonymous

    Every year, the Florida / Caribbean chapter of the AIA recognizes one firm in the state of Florida that has produced notable architecture for at least a decade.

    This year’s recipient is the local firm of Sweet Sparkman Architects. The award was presented to Sweet Sparkman Architects on Saturday, July 20th at the annual Florida AIA convention held at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

    The Jury commended Sweet Sparkman’s comprehensive body of work for its consistent high quality and good variety. They complimented Sweet Sparkman for their inclusivity and authenticity. “They put people first. This is a firm involved in training and mentoring staff as well as client service and community involvement. They are not just about design, but also, service to the profession and the community.”

    Todd Sweet, firm founder, states, “I hope this award says that we are providing a valuable service to our clients by developing architectural solutions that are creative, sustainable, and economical.”

    Partner Jerry Sparkman reiterates this idea. “This award is a testament to our staff; their devotion to design, the built environment, and, most importantly, service to our community.”

    Firm of the Year Award is the highest honor the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Florida / Caribbean Chapter can bestow upon an architecture firm. It is awarded to recognize a firm that has consistently produced distinguished architecture, has shown a commitment to the AIA and the profession of architecture, and has been a service to the community in which they are located.

    ABOUT AIA: Founded in 1857, AIA consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through more than 200 international, state and local chapters, AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards.

    ABOUT SWEET SPARKMAN ARCHITECTS: Sweet Sparkman Architects designs comprehensive, artful places through a collaborative, creative, and professional process. The firm specializes in community oriented projects. Sweet Sparkman Architects has received national and international design industry recognition for a wide range of private and public projects including residences, offices, academic buildings, fire stations, and park pavilions. For more information visit http://

  • 02 Aug 2018 11:35 PM | Anonymous

    July 30, 2018 02:08 PM

    Updated July 30, 2018 05:40 PM

  • 26 Jul 2018 4:06 PM | Anonymous

    Venice-based J.E. Charlotte Construction Corp. has been awarded the contract to construct the new 23,437-square-foot facility for RSP USA, a full-service marketing solutions provider that has served the real estate industry since 1997. For nearly 16 years, RSP USA has been located at 7456 16th St. E. in Manatee County. From layout to interior finishes, the ground-up construction on the new building is scheduled for completion in spring 2019. Once complete, the company will move into its new facility at 5246 Lena Road in Bradenton. The more than $3,000,000 project will expand RSP USA’s current footprint and accommodate its growing client base. The architecture firm on the project, Sivitz Innovative Design, has issued a utility design incorporating office space and a production area with high-end features. Glass will surround the building, providing views of a pond and fountain at the rear of the building and the land’s natural vegetation that will b e preserved

  • 05 Jul 2018 5:59 PM | Anonymous

    Sarasota-based Sweet Sparkman Architects has promoted architect, John Bryant, AIA, LEED AP to firm principal.

    After receiving a degree in music at Grinnell College, John received his Master of Architecture from the University of Maryland School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation in 2007. At the University of Maryland, he received the Dean’s Thesis Award and the 2007 David M. Schwarz Traveling Fellowship, which allowed for thesis research in Japan.

    John joined Sweet Sparkman Architects in 2012. He served as the project manager for the recently completed Basch Visual Arts Center at Ringling College of Art + Design and Fruitville Elementary Classroom Building Addition. John was also the project manager for the Siesta Key Beach Improvements project which included two new concession buildings and a restoration of the historically designated Siebert Beach Pavilion. John currently serves as the project manager for the new Venice Library.

    John is active in the architectural community through the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). He served as president of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the AIA in 2014.

    Todd Sweet, AIA, LEED AP, firm founder stated, “We are thrilled to have John as a principal and partner in the firm. John’s tireless efforts to date have elevated our practice of architecture.” Jerry Sparkman, AIA, NCARB expounds, “John’s talents are simply too numerous to note, but one in particular stands out. His ability to direct a project towards success is uncanny. It’s an honor to have John become a partner in our firm, and we look forward to seeing what new design frontiers he explores in the years ahead.”


    Formed in 2002, Sweet Sparkman Architects is an architecture and planning firm specializing in community oriented projects. Projects include residential, large mixed-use buildings, civic and community projects.

    Sweet Sparkman Architects has received national and international design recognition, including the distinguished 2018 AIA Florida Firm of the Year. For more information visit

  • 14 Jun 2018 5:34 PM | Anonymous

    Adams and Reese has announced the firm has been included in the BTI Consulting Group’s (BTI) Brand Elite 2018: Client Perceptions of the Best-Branded Law Firms. For this annual publication, BTI conducted 686 interviews of corporate counsel at the world’s largest companies to solicit unbiased, direct feedback about the law firms they consider top-of-mind. BTI’s research unveiled a list of 334 law firms that corporate counsel recommend and consider first, provide value for the dollar, lead their markets and add value through technology or new services, among other traits BTI identifies as market-leading in brand perception and performance. Adams and Reese has long received recognition in BTI publications, which are all based on feedback from corporate counsel. Since 2006, Adams and Reese has been recognized for “Outstanding Client Service” in the yearly BTI Client Service A-Team report. The firm has also been named among BTI’s lis t of “Market Movers,” “Top 100 in Mergers and Acquisitions” and “Most Tech-Savvy Law Firms.”

  • 07 Jun 2018 1:43 PM | Anonymous

    Sarasota, FL, May 29, 2018– Willis Smith Construction announces that the Sarasota County Fire Stations #12, #14, #16, #17 have won the 2018 American Public Works Association Projects of the Year Award for structures $5-$25 million.

    The Fire Station’s project team consisted of Sweet Sparkman Architects and Willis Smith Construction. Brett Raymaker, Willis Smith Construction Project Executive, oversaw all four projects and worked closely with Kim Humphrey, Sarasota County Facilities and the Fire Department personnel throughout the process. Each station broke ground within three months of each other and each were completed under budget by utilizing the local construction community of Sarasota County. Each station was completed within the scheduled time of completion date and each celebrated their completions with grand openings in 2016. Each Fire Station also achieved the LEED Silver rating from the USGBC Council in 2016. John LaCivita, Executive Vice President of Willis Smith Construction stated, “It is truly an honor being a part of the team that constructed Sarasota County’s new Fire Stations 12, 14, 16, 17 and we are very proud to have been recognized by the Florida Chapter of APWA with the Project of the Year Award.”

    The projects are also being considered for the National APWA Award Selection.

    Willis A. Smith Construction, Inc. is a construction management firm headquartered in Lakewood Ranch, primarily serving Southwest Florida since 1972. The company has a longstanding reputation for superior construction and offers its clients particular expertise in the areas of commercial, industrial, education, healthcare, museum specialty work and sustainable construction. Willis A. Smith Construction serves to promote excellence and integrity in the construction industry while contributing to the betterment of our clients and the communities we serve.

    If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Peggy Kronus at 941-366-3116 or email at

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