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Sarasota Thursday, Sep. 9, 2010 7 years ago

Roundabout park benches criticized

by: Robin Roy City Editor

As the construction of the Five Points roundabout nears its final stage, a group of downtown residents has become concerned about one of its approved features.

“There was too much focus on pavers and flagpoles, and we didn’t pay enough attention to the drawings,” said Peter Fanning, president of the Downtown Sarasota Condo Association.

Fanning said some DSCA members became concerned when they recently noticed that three park benches were planned for the sidewalk in front of the Zenith building, just south of the roundabout.

“We don’t want to eliminate the benches, (but) just put them in a more utilizable place,” he said.

Mary Ellen Maurer, project coordinator for the city, said the complaints that she heard were that the benches could attract homeless people, who might use the benches all day.

She said the intention of the design was to give everyone a place to rest.

“They were designed for residents and tourists to sit in a shaded spot,” Maurer said.

Fanning acknowledged there are some downtown residents who want to remove all park benches to deter the homeless, but he said the DSCA does not want to eliminate any amenities.

“I’d like to think we are a more egalitarian society than that,” said Fanning, who is asking that other locations for the three benches be considered, such as in front of Ivory Lounge on Main Street or at the valet station at Patrick’s restaurant.

The benches were supposed to be installed already, but because of the residents’ concerns, Maurer asked contractor Jon Swift Inc. to hold off on the installation until the City Commission could provide input.

Commissioners did not discuss the placement of the Five Points roundabout benches at their Sept. 7 meeting, so Maurer hopes it will be discussed their next meeting Sept. 20.

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