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Arts and Entertainment Thursday, May 17, 2012 10 years ago

City Commission to Discuss Community Use of Five Points Park

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by: Anthony Paull

** UPDATE:  The Special meeting has been changed to June 6, 2012 at 3:00pm in the Commission Chambers. **On May 24 a special city commission meeting will be held at City Hall to discuss a potential ban of the use of Five Points Park for future public events. Following the success of the 2012 Harvey Milk Festival, which held a captive audience of nearly 5,000 people, a group of Sarasota residents is lobbying city commissioners to ban all public events, returning the park to a passive space. Advocates of keeping the park a public venue for special events celebrating music, art and other forms of entertainment are asked to attend the meeting to voice their support for keeping the park alive.

Sarasota business owners who financially gain from events such as Harvey Milk Festival, along with other regularly-scheduled arts and crafts shows, will be present to discuss the economical benefits of keeping downtown active with social events.

Diego Malatesta of Ivory Lounge states that events like Harvey Milk Festival keep downtown merchants in business. “It was a perfect event. I absolutely want it held in Five Points Park again," Malatesta said. "I opened the doors early and had a lot of costumers.”

Harvey Milk Festival Vice-President Turner Moore said he feels the strong attendance at Harvey Milk Festival is a key indicator that Sarasota residents also want more events in the heart of downtown. “Without use of the park, it would not have been possible for us to attract or accommodate the huge crowd that we did, or generate sufficient revenues to pay the bills,” Moore stated. Moore also notes that there was not a single incident or arrest during the three-day festival.

Harvey Milk Festival contributes to local businesses by paying for annual expenses such as equipment rental, police, city permit fees, waste removal, stages and lighting, toilets, signage, banners, and printing. It also benefits the service and hospitality industry, including Hotel Indigo, the host for musicians and festival guests.

Downtown business owner Ron Soto of Soto's Optical Boutique agrees with Moore, stating festivals and art shows should be held at Five Points Park. “Festivals are a great way to bring people downtown. That’s what we need, people downtown,” Soto said. “Even if it’s after store hours, someone might walk by my window and see something to come back and purchase later.”

Ultimately, the city commission will decide if Five Points will come to function an artistic gathering area or be likened to that room in the house where the furniture is too expensive to sit on, and the carpet is too white to enter. At Five Points Park, the benches have already been removed.

Other events the vote could affect include EcoFest, Sarasota Naturally and Thunder By The Bay.

Sarasota residents attending the city commission meeting regarding Five Points Park will be given three minutes to voice their opinions and concern regarding the issue.

‘Special Events’ Meeting

May 24th, 2012 3:00 pm

City Hall

1565 1st Street

Sarasota, FL 34236

Anthony Paull is a writer, author and filmmaker. His first novel, Outtakes of a Walking Mistake, is available now.

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