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It was a good day for Longboat Key

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To be sure, Paul and Sarah Karon were two of the most pleased and proud Longboaters at the dedication Saturday of the Karon Family Pavilion at Town Center Green.

But there was one person who had a right to feel even better — at least to have a warm sense of satisfaction. 

That would be Jim Brown, former Longboat Key mayor and chairman of the Longboat Key Foundation.

It was a long time coming.

Longtime Longboaters probably remember: Brown has been working on the idea of developing a community center on Longboat Key for 20 years. 

It hasn’t been easy. Brown has the scars to show it. 

In the early 2000s, well before he became a town commissioner and later mayor, Brown led a two-year effort to develop a community center at Bayfront Park. 

It was a townwide project, open to everyone to express what the town should have in a community center. But by the time everyone’s dreams and wishes made it into a formal proposal, the projected cost of the center mushroomed to $6 million. That was a lot of money then for what was to be a simple community center.

Despite the countless hours Brown devoted, voters said absolutely not. Too much taxpayer money.

Ten years later, Brown was at it again. This time Brown, Longboat Key resident Walter Hackett and others brought in the Urban Land Institute to help the town create a vision plan. Two of the recommendations that came out of that were a town center green and town center, complete with a community center.

So began the Longboat Key Foundation and another 10 years of stops and starts, including a failed partnership with Ringling College of Art & Design.

But now, thanks primarily to Brown’s fundraising, the Karons’ $500,000 contribution (and contributions of around 50 others), Brown and all of Longboat Key are seeing the town vision come to fruition piece by piece. The Karon Family Pavilion signifies progress, another positive step forward.

Yes, there is more to be done — development of a library, education center, auditorium and classrooms. And while we’re at it — making the Longboat Key Historical Society’s cottage at Town Center Green a welcoming visitor center.

Mr. Brown, you can’t quit. 

Correction: This article has been updated to correct that Jim Brown, Walter Hackett and others brought in the Urban Land Institute.



Matt Walsh

Matt Walsh is the CEO and founder of Observer Media Group.

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