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downtown — is an indication of progress after several years of little economic growth, Jim Bridges of Jebco Ventures Inc. in Sarasota told The Sarasota News Leader this week. He pointed out that the new Walmart will serve local residents. His firm purchased the 4.033-acre site and, in turn, leased it to the Arkansas-based retailer. "In my opinion, it provides the residents of the area another option for shopping for grocery and pharmaceutical products," said Bridges, who is also developing a $40-million down- town hotel, located at 202 N. Tamiami Trail. "Sarasota is very fortunate to have compa- nies and developers that are willing to invest in the economy for the area," Bridges added. "We finally have a new crane that has com- menced work on Palm Avenue [at The Jewel condominium tower site] after several years of little or no growth. I am hopeful that this is just the beginning." But fears of even more traffic intensity and the fact the Walmart store will be open 24 hours a day raised concerns among neighboring resi- dents when the project was proposed. All but four of the 22 speakers who addressed the County Commission about the project in April 2013 spoke in opposition to the request for a rezoning and comprehensive plan change to allow the Walmart to be built. Construction fencing surrounded the property at the southwestern corner of Bee Ridge and Beneva roads in Sarasota as equipment began removing the church roof. Photo by Roger Drouin Sarasota News Leader May 16, 2014 Page 34

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