While downtown undergoes five major construction projects though spring, summer and fall, a downtown group wants to add a sixth.
The Downtown Improvement District wants to fast-track improvements to Five Points Park — not a major overhaul, but significant enough changes that it hopes will draw more people to the park.
“Take down the curb, re-grade the site, put up some lights and have some type of structure in the park for live entertainment.” said Larry Fineberg, DID chairman. “Those four things can get us through this time where we discuss what to do next with the park.”
The DID has hired WilsonMiller to come up with a design. Preliminarily, board members asked that most, or even all, of the wall that surrounds the park be removed, because they feel it’s a barrier that tells people to keep out.
A small piece of playground equipment or a piece of sculpture that children can climb is also high on the list of priorities.
Board members want a type of stage, either permanent or portable, that can host music, poetry readings or other events.
Also under discussion is a permanent location for a Christmas tree that would be decorated every year.
DID board members heard public input April 6, and they were split between those who desired to keep it a quiet place and those wanting to bring in more life.
“I’d hate to see anything change the tranquil nature of the park,” said Jack Engle, a Bay Plaza resident.
Others agreed that the park should just get some new plants, saying that there are plenty of other places for kids to play.
But some said the idea behind improving the park was to draw more people to it.
“We need to make downtown more family-friendly,” said John Anderson, owner of Mozaic restaurant. “It’s a necessary component to have a thriving shopping district.”
A few people touched on the belief that the most frequent users of Five Points Park are the homeless.
“The park has become a wasteland that nobody wants to use,” said Wendy Getchell, president of the Downtown Sarasota Alliance. “The objective from the City Commission was to make it a family-oriented place. We want people to discover the restaurants and shops.”
Any plans the DID adopts will go the parks board and City Commission for approval.
Fineberg is hopeful that can happen before the Five Points roundabout is complete, which is expected by September.
“It makes all the sense in the world to open (the park) as the roundabout is done,” he said.
Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].