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Redevelopment Could Save Sarasota's Tax Base

Many developed countries are balancing their population pyramid on a small foundation of young children and adults, with the sheer number of older adults threatening to topple over the whole thing. It is true that older adults (i.e., typically adults over 60 years old) are advantageous to society for many reasons, such as volunteer contributions, lower crime rates, and stronger informal social networks for families and the community at large. The City of Sarasota, a retirement haven like many other cities in Florida, experiences these benefits as Baby Boomers stay to retire or snowbirds from up north come down to perch for a while.

But an unequal age-distribution population could financially wreak havoc on our cities. For communities that have an aging population, the alarm is starting to go off – how will these cities fund their services for residents if the tax base erodes from the disappearing income and sales tax? The consequence of a main proportion of the population not earning an income or buying as much requires a balancing act: attract young professionals to support the top-heavy age pyramid.

This leaves the cities with a high proportion of older adults like Sarasota with two jobs: one, attract young professionals; two, retain those hard-earned yuppies. And how do we do that?

Enter The Bay. The redevelopment of prime real estate on City-owned property on the Sarasota Bay is an opportunity that the City of Sarasota is potentially using to create public space, entertainment venues, and environmentally sustainable recreation in an urban setting that does not rely on the personal automobile. The hired planning firm, Saski, has not released their final draft, but these seem to be integral into The Bay renderings and community engagement discussions. Sarasota may be on to something, as some of these values rank high along the preferences that Millenials have for cities.

Whether they know it or not, the city of Sarasota is in competition. In competition locally, regionally, nationally and even internationally for young professionals to bolster their tax base. We live in a global economy, and young workers are more mobile and urban than ever. If you want to stay afloat, you are going to have to have what young professionals like. And if you do not give it to them, some other city will.