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The newly-formed Burns Court Neighborhood Association's board members include Marnie Matarese, secretary, and Andrew Marcus, treasurer.
Sarasota Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 5 years ago

Burns Court merchants group takes up a cause


For Burns Square property owner Andrew Marcus, it has seemed like one disruption after another. 

Last year, Pineapple Avenue was closed twice for construction projects, including a seven-month project to build a new roundabout that started in the middle of high tourist season.

Then, in November, there was the 10-day street closure for the Sarasota Chalk Festival that took up valuable parking spaces and blocked off the quaint shopping and restaurant district’s main street.

Marcus and other property owners and merchants went to City Hall to lobby their complaints, but they soon realized they would be able to get more traction if they were part of an organized association.

Thus, the idea for the Burns Court Neighborhood Association was born.

The BCNA held its first meeting Thursday, Jan. 10. It is a neighborhood business group comprised of mostly restaurant owners, property managers and storeowners. But one resident has attended a meeting, and residents are welcome.

“We’re looking forward to getting the word out and getting more people involved,” said Marcus, who owns a vacant parcel on Dolphin Lane and is also a property manager at Montgomery Management Co.

Eleven members attended the first meeting. BCNA officers include: President LeeAnne Swor, owner of L. Boutique; Vice President William J. Fuller, attorney with an office in Burns Court; Secretary Marnie Matarese, broker associate with J Wood Realty; and Marcus, treasurer.

The 10-day street closure during the Chalk Festival was the main impetus for forming the group.

“The street closures that came with that (event) were a big issue for us,” Marcus said.

Many of the merchants and property owners now involved in BCNA have already met with City Manager Tom Barwin to talk about ways to prevent such a lengthy impact on local businesses during the event next year.

“Many of the merchants at that meeting were upset” about the effects of the festival, Marcus said.
Marcus has been a Burns Court property owner since 1998.

“It’s not Main Street but it’s close,” he said. “It’s a unique area.”

Another top issue for the neighborhood association will be lobbying for improvements.

“We will certainly look at ways to improve the area, capital improvements and funding,” Marcus said.
Matarese said, the real-estate firm of J Wood opened in Burns Square two years ago because of the location.

“We feel it is a special district of its own,” Matarese said. “We just feel we don’t have an association of our own. I understand we did have one, but it just kind of fell by the wayside.”

Matarese said, at the first association meeting, she met a handful of merchants and business leaders from the area whom she had not known.

“We want open communication among the majority of our stakeholders,” Matarese said. “We want to be a good communication vehicle.”

To help foster that communication, one of the first items of business is building an email database of association members.

“The next time the city says it will close Dolphin for a sewer repair we can let everyone know and ask how it will impact them,” Matarese said.

Making improvements
The association will focus on the following issues:
• Increasing the association’s membership;
• Working to prevent lengthy road closures;
• Improving communication among merchants;
• Lobbying for area capital improvements/funding;
• Getting word out about planned construction projects.

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