Nathan Benderson Park, a project that WRA is working on with Benderson Development, just won the 2013 American Planning Association’s (APA) prestigious “Hunter Award” for Excellence in Economic Development. The award points out that the park is being transformed from an unimproved borrow pit lake to a 600-acre regional park and rowing venue. The project is the result of a partnership that includes Sarasota County, Manatee County and the state of Florida; Benderson Development Inc.; the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council; The Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates (SANCA), a nonprofit organization; recreation experts, schools, rowing clubs and local citizens. The park will become a regional attraction with a significant impact on economic development and tourism for Sarasota and Manatee counties, along with the southwest Florida region.
The park is being constructed with $24.5 million in improvements that are funded through a number of public and private partnerships, Tourist Development tax dollars, and the state of Florida. Sarasota County estimates an economic impact of more than $12.9 million in direct spending by participants and attendees, with a total regional impact exceeding $24.6 million. Phase one is anticiapted to be complete by August.