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Sarasota Thursday, Sep. 5, 2019 2 weeks ago

Project to light up downtown Sarasota trees

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The Downtown Improvement District hopes to add lights on Main Street, in Five Points Park and in other portions of the city center.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Downtown leaders are excited to pursue a project they think is a bright idea: installing tree lights in the heart of Sarasota.

The Downtown Improvement District is working with the city on an effort to adorn nearly 400 trees with lights. DID Operations Manager John Moran said the idea came out of a meeting with Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown, inspired by an observation City Commissioner Hagen Brody made during last year’s Downtown Sarasota Holiday Parade.

Moran said Brody noted that segments of Main Street along the parade route weren’t lit up. Brown said he wanted the city to address that issue ahead of this year’s holiday season by placing lights on all the trees on Main Street between Gulfstream Avenue and U.S. 301.

“Marlon said, ‘Let’s do it right,’” Moran said.

When Moran first discussed the concept with the DID in July, the board was excited about the proposal — and wanted to take it even further. In August, the board approved spending more than $100,000 on white tree lights. In addition to Main Street, the group planned to light trees on Palm Avenue, on Lemon Avenue, on State Street and in Five Points Park. The DID hoped the lights could stay up year-round.

“It livens up the streets,” DID board member Wayne Ruben said.

Although the DID was working to complete the project by Thanksgiving, the group might have to wait longer. On Tuesday, Moran told the board the city’s procurement procedures will likely delay a portion of the tree lighting process.

The Main Street work can proceed as planned, but because any additional work will require more than $50,000 in spending, the DID must seek bids. DID board members encouraged the city to try to find a way to do all the work at one time.

Even if the other portions of the project are delayed, Moran hoped all the lights would be up by Christmas.

The DID was unanimous in its belief the lights will enhance the experience of going downtown.

“I think it’s really nice,” board member Eileen Hampshire said. “People say, ‘Oh, something’s happening there.’”

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