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Paul Thorpe Jr. Park
Sarasota Wednesday, Jul. 3, 2019 4 months ago

City cools on ice cream proposal

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A city advisory board rejected a pitch to place an ice cream sandwich vendor in a downtown park.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Would an 18-foot trailer stand out in Paul Thorpe Jr. Park, located near the intersection of Lemon and Pineapple avenues?

That was a crucial question as the city considered a proposal from Christian Nye, owner of Nye’s Cream Sandwiches. He approached officials with a concept: opening an ice cream sandwich sales business inside the park and selling his product out of a nonpermanent structure placed on the city-owned property.

Both city staff and the Parks, Recreation and Environmental Protection Board were skeptical about the idea, with the latter voting 5-2 to reject the concept at its June 20 meeting. Although Nye attempted to argue the proposal would help bring activity to an underused public space, city representatives called the business a bad fit.

“It will be an obvious, out-of-character addition to the park,” said John Tuccillo, a parks advisory board member.

City regulations allow private vendors in three parks: Paul Thorpe Jr. Park, Five Points Park and Centennial Park. The city has previously expressed interest in partnering with a business to draw more people to downtown parks. In 2015, city administration issued a temporary permit to the Baltimore Snowball Factory to operate at Five Points Park, though the business owner ended his sales there after just three weeks and cited a lack of activity.

Jerry Fogle, the city’s parks and recreation director, thought the ice cream sandwich business was not the right size for the smaller downtown park. He said the city wasn’t opposed to setting up vendors on park land, but he said Nye’s proposal was unusual because it was privately initiated.

Fogle said the city would likely be more comfortable with putting a business in a park if it was a response to public demand.

Not all parks board members were opposed to the idea. Maryellin Kirkwood and Jerry Wells both said they thought ice cream sales could be an effective way to enliven the park.

“I would like to see children and families come use that park,” Kirkwood said.

Despite his concerns about the scale, Fogle said city staff had been open to Nye’s proposal and would consider future vending options on a case-by-case basis.

“There’s really nothing off the table,” Fogle said.

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