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East County Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2010 7 years ago

SMR nixes Main Street memorial

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — A memorial honoring Sept. 11, 2001 first-responders and military veterans will not find a home on Lakewood Ranch Main Street by Memorial Day as organizers had hoped.

In fact, it won’t find a home on Main Street at all.

Project organizers Gene Sweeney and John Breiner, owner of Ed’s Tavern, learned recently Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch decided not to place the proposed memorial on Main Street. Instead, SMR President Rex Jensen has offered land for the structure at the newly announced amateur sports facility by the Lakewood Ranch Post Office.

“When you are trying to put such a thing in a commercial area, you get into all sorts of tiny conflicts,” he said. “I thought, ‘What would be wrong with putting this thing in a park?’ There, you have a perpetual entity that can mow the grass and polish the plaques. Because of the stewardship district, we could figure out a way to do it on a small portion of the property that would be deeded.”

Jensen said the timing could be perfect for opening the memorial on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 next year.
Sweeney and Breiner said they are thankful for the offer but frustrated the location on Main is no longer an option.

“I’m very disappointed,” Sweeney said. “The store owners and people were very excited about the project. We had gone along with all the direction (we were given). You talk about the community coming together.”

Breiner agreed.

“I’m very disappointed that we weren’t able to get the deal done,” he said. “It was a win-win for everyone.”
Sweeney said he is considering Jensen’s offer but is not convinced it will be the appropriate place for the memorial. Already, he’s gotten interest to construct the memorial in Sarasota County, he said.

“I am leaving the options open,” Sweeney said. “I have the steel beam. I have the contractor. I have everything in place. That thing can be put up and done in no time.”

If the memorial cannot be resurrected by Memorial Day, Sweeney wants to make sure it’s ready by Sept. 11, 2010, he said.

Breiner said the change will not impact the Memorial Day parade he and Sweeney started on Lakewood Ranch Main Street last year, although they will no longer be able to have a dedication ceremony that day this year as planned.

“We’re still going to move forward with our Memorial Day,” Breiner said. “It just would have been a lot nicer if we would have had our memento in Lakewood Ranch.”

Sweeney said he is hopeful Jensen will reconsider the decision.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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