OUR POSITION: A Dearborn Street renovation project in Englewood has dragged on for far too long.

Given all the problems and delays on the Dearborn Street renovations, the least Sarasota County officials can do today is approve a bid for a planned bandshell that will be the focal point for celebrations and events.

Two bidders will come before the Sarasota County Commission in a public hearing today to pitch their qualifications to build the bandshell on Pioneer Plaza. While commissioners were likely taken aback at the increase in costs from the original $500,000 estimate to $1 million or more, it is a key piece of the Dearborn Street renovations that must get done.

Besides the bandshell and restrooms, the project includes concrete walkways, a dumpster area and lighting. The property is the site of numerous festivals and events, and from October through May is home to the Englewood Farmers Market on Thursdays.

To make a decision on the bandshell would be a small bit of progress on a $7.7 million project that has seen delays and mistakes for about two years since the Englewood CRA, the county and Kimley-Horn Associates first sat down to draw it up. Plans call for decorative intersections and sidewalks, new LED lighting and signs, pedestrian gathering areas, additional on-street parking and a gateway sign. It would be a complete makeover of West Dearborn from Old Englewood Road to State Road 776-Indiana Avenue.

The project should have been finished by now. And, because of yet another delay announced last week, it will lapse into tourism season this winter — or get put off again until next spring/summer.

The first delay came in February of 2020 when getting easements from West Dearborn and South McCall Road property owners was holding everything up. Those easements are needed for parking on West Dearborn and land for drainage.

In a Daily Sun story in February of 2020, Kimley Horn engineer Jordan Leep explained the problems with easements saying the “eastern ditch is straddling right of way — part is in the right of way and part on private property. We cannot go in and pipe that ditch if we need to because part of it is on private property.”

That was a long time ago.

Finally, Wright Construction Group, the contractor, was ready to begin work within the next week or two, but discovered surveying discrepancies that need to be resolved.

We don’t understand how this could happen. The street was surveyed more than a year ago when the project saw the light of day.

The latest estimate we heard was that by late spring and summer months of 2022, Wright Construction will complete work on the west end of the improvements from Cedar Street to Old Englewood Road.

The long, drawn-out project should be an embarrassment to all involved. There should have been nothing — including the situation with easements — that was not anticipated and the engineers and construction crews had plenty of time to deal with before actual work was to begin.

We can only imagine how frustrating this has been to business owners on Dearborn Street, not to mention the public.

Englewood is a jewel that we sometimes doubt Sarasota County appreciates.

It’s past time for all the parties involved to sit down, figure out what is holding this project up once and for all and set a firm date for work to begin.


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