When Veronica Brady meets with prospective donors about contributing to The Bay, she has a simple pitch: The Bay, an ambitious effort to remake 53 acres of city-owned bayfront property near downtown Sarasota, will change Sarasota forever. It will be the city’s Central Park—a place that families, kids, outdoor enthusiasts and arts lovers will cherish for generations.
That pitch, so far, is working. The Bay Park Conservancy, the nonprofit created to oversee the construction and operation of The Bay, has so far secured nearly $3 million in donations from more than a dozen individuals, plus what Brady, the Conservancy’s director of advancement, calls a “transformative” commitment from The Patterson Foundation, which has pledged up to $5 million toward the $20 million construction of phase one. The overall project is expected to cost between $100 million and 200 million.
Raising that amount is no easy task at a time when several nonprofits are in the midst of major fundraising pushes. Mote, for example, is looking to raise $130 million for its new Science Education Aquarium, while Selby Gardens is raising $92 million for its master plan.
But Sarasota native Brady knows something about fund-raising. She spent 25 years at SunTrust Bank before joining the Gulf Coast Community Foundation as senior vice president for philanthropy. During her eight-year tenure with the foundation, the nonprofit’s annual gifts tripled. She was an early supporter of the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization and part of a three-person team that raised $2.1 million in 2017 to pay for the master plan.
Phase one, to be built near the old G. Wiz site, is already underway, and is expected to be completed in mid-2021. The most recent design calls for a spiral pier that juts out into the bay, a small beach, a large lawn where the public can gather, a kayak launch, mangrove and hammock walkways, plus environmental restoration to nearby seagrasses and an inlet currently choked with silt.
Raising money in this competitive environment is possible, she says. “Philanthropy is not a zero-sum game,” she says. “Most people have many causes they care about and there are right times to invest in those causes. This is a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-century opportunity.”
Why It Matters
“In Sarasota, there aren’t too many opportunities for a shared common experience. The Bay is going to make Sarasota’s bay and sunsets and activities accessible to everyone.”
Not Just Donations
In addition to philanthropy, funding for The Bay is expected to come from revenue generated through leases with businesses working on the property, plus city, county, state and federal budgets.
Phase one includes an overlook that pays tribute to the fact that the property was the site of the original Selby Public Library.