Rather than illuminating the night with an exciting display, a lighting demonstration held Thursday, Dec. 12, in Five Points Park felt a little dim to those in attendance.
The goal of the event was to impress potential stakeholders willing to share the cost to install a new tree-lighting system in the park.
When the lighting system was ultimately presented to a sparse crowd of DID members and nearby condominium owners, the audience was far from dazzled. With a price tag as high as $136,000 attached to a lighting system that received a lukewarm response, the DID board must now weigh its options for lighting the park.
The previous lighting system at Five Points Park, installed in 2011, was turned off in June due to maintenance issues. The board solicited proposals for a new lighting system this summer. The winning proposal offered four color-changing LED lights strapped to the park’s trees, 10 feet off the ground, projecting upward at the canopy. The same system is also available with static white lights.
Both the color-changing and the white lights — which come with an installation cost of $136,000 and $91,000, respectively — were on display Dec. 12. DID Operations Manager John Moran said he received feedback from attendees that the proposed systems offered “not enough bang for the buck.”
Thomas Molitor is the president of Avana Corp., an LED lighting company that has put up lights across the street from Five Points Park, at the Plaza at Five Points. He attended the tree-lighting demonstration to see first-hand the lighting system that comes with, to his ears, an absurd price tag.
“We do lighting for condos, so we do color-change lights all the time,” Molitor said. “When I saw the price tag on this, I just about choked.”
Moran said the responses he received from those in attendance indicated a lack of interest in the more expensive color-changing system, and a general lack of enthusiasm about either of the proposed systems.
“Their feedback was that they preferred white over color,” Moran said. “Having seen the effects of the tree lights on Main Street, they think that’s a way to consider.”
Trees along the 1300, 1400 and 1500 blocks of Main Street were outfitted with strings of white lights Dec. 4. The Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association spearheaded the project, which was funded by the DID and cost about $14,000.
Ron Soto, the president of the Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association and a member of the DID board, said he believed the most prudent option would be to install the lights used on Main Street in Five Points Park.
“I think we can do what we did on Main Street here for $16,000,” Soto said. “We can use the rest of that money for clean sidewalks and other things.”
Moran said the company that installed the lights on Main Street did not submit a proposal for lighting Five Points Park, because the DID’s request for proposals prohibited the use of the company’s preferred lights. After the original lighting system failed due to maintenance issues, the DID required the use of lights with longer than a 90-day warranty.
Moran said there were reasons to believe the Main Street lights would have better longevity than the original Five Points Park lighting system. Soto said, as a test case, two Main Street trees have had the lights since last November and are still functioning effectively. Moran also said he believed the Main Street lights were designed to function even as the trees grow, a source of failure for the original Five Points Park lights.
Between the price point and the resident feedback, Moran said it was likely that the DID would give heavy consideration to using the Main Street lights in Five Points Park.
“It’s going to be difficult to not respond to a proposal that is likely to come before the DID to replace the lights with what was installed on Main Street, given we have resident comments that support that idea,” Moran said.
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