Biking has always been a part of Eric Collin’s life. As a young boy in France and later working for a development company, he would join throngs of other cyclists pedaling to work each day.
In 2001, he moved to Sarasota to start up a division of Finergy Development, a real estate development company whose general contractors are involved in designing and building commercial projects from hotels to offices.
He brought with him an affinity for biking as an alternative mode of transportation. So it’s not surprising that he recently was named Developer of the Year by the Florida Bicycle Association.
As executive vice president at Finergy, he’s been involved in integrating biking into the design and construction of projects like the Hampton Inn & Suites near the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport. Bike racks were added as well as shower facilities for employees who bike to work.
“We are doing this in all of our projects now,” he said. That includes the company’s new headquarters on Main Street in Sarasota. Bike parking, storage and wider sidewalks are all part of the strategy.
On the Hampton Inn project, Collin said, “We responded to a need from employees. We noticed a lot were using the public bus system and bikes to get to work.”
The Hampton Inn is Sarasota’s first green hotel. It has won one Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating and is seeking a higher LEEDS rating.
Collin, who rides his bike to work most days and often to nearby projects he is working on, also is involved in the North Trail Redevelopment Partnership, an effort to improve conditions on U.S. 41. The group is pushing the Department of Transportation to install bike lanes on the road to calm traffic and create an environment compatible with retail/commercial development.
“We want it to be more inviting for people to use the trail and businesses,” he said.
Collin sees a more European trend developing toward biking in the United States as rail and high-speed transportation come into play in urban areas like Tampa Bay where high-speed rail is under development.
He admits “here it is sometimes more challenging with the weather and the large distances.” But he’s sticking to his bike and hopes he’ll influence others to make the switch.
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Rose Parsons, the general manager of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Convention Center, recently died after an 18-month fight with ovarian cancer.
The 58-year-old was “the main spring” behind the convention center, says her husband, Oscar Parsons.
More than 200 people showed up for her funeral on Long Island, where the New York native was buried next to her father.
“She was a vivacious person who made a lot of friends,” the 87-year-old said.
Rose was there in 2001 when Parsons bought the former Sam’s Club near the Sarasota-Bradenton airport and converted it into a sprawling 120,000-square-feet convention center, which opened in June 2003.
The center has struggled over the years to pick up business from large associations and conferences, Parsons says, because of a lack of support by the local business establishment. But the two struggled on until Rose was diagnosed and Parsons decided to put the building up for sale.
“We’ve had a few tire kickers” but no serious offers, he said.
What the future holds for the center and Parsons is uncertain. “Life hasn’t been the same since she died,” he said. “But for now, we’re still open for business.”