I would like to share with you a lesson learned from Ken Birdsong of WENG 1530 on the AM dial. “Repeat, then repeat again”. His point was that new listeners tune in all the time, which makes me wonder if the same lesson applies to casual community readers. Let’s review.
Old Englewood Village Association, OEVA, was organized in 1984 to help the Englewood community with its revitalization and beautification efforts. Included are: economic, business, civic, social, and recreational services that will benefit the downtown residents and the surrounding neighborhoods. OEVA works cooperatively with Sarasota County Government, the Englewood Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), and other community organizations.
The majority of OEVA’s mission over the years has been to support the merchants on Dearborn Street through activities that were intended to draw visitors and residents to the shopping district. Those activities included events that were either supported or sponsored by OEVA, like Englewood’s Fine Arts & Handmade Crafts Festival, a juried art show held the first weekend of December. The annual Halloween Safe Walk, where West Dearborn Street closes for safe trick or treating, the Englewood Seafood & Music Festival held in January on the Dearborn Street Plaza and our monthly “Cruisin” automobile show. In the 2019 CRA Annual Report, twenty-four community events were noted, thanks to the efforts of our fellow clubs, groups, organizations, and our CRA.
Because of that collective success, OEVA’s mission is expanding to include supporting and promoting several long term CRA projects that have been in the works for years. Why? Because Englewood’s CRA, which has been successfully partnering with the community for over twenty years, will formally expire in December of 2029. I know that nine years sounds like a lifetime, but change, especially meaningful community changes, take time and we will need all the CRA’s time and help they can spare.
Over the years the CRA has been steadily building the foundation for Englewood’s self-sufficiency. Don’t get excited. I am not talking about Englewood’s succession from Sarasota County. Instead, I am talking about our final downtown capital improvements, finishing up our zoning updates, and finding a way to support a main street manager to help the street stay organized when the CRA is gone.
Part of our independence preparation will include finishing the Plaza with a permanent stage, hardscaping pedestrian areas for accessibility, bathrooms were discussed, so was sound buffering with creative landscaping, even new safer entries and exits for the public. All of that and much more is slated to begin shortly. These and other key projects over the next ten years will give our downtown the foundation it needs to prosper in the decades ahead.
Once the CRA’s work is done, I would hope that our community will learn to work together on common promotions and events. Yes, that may seem a little daunting because organizations tend to have their own flavor, and funding needs, but it should be possible if the town unites around one common location. I am not suggesting that we all give up our individuality that makes organizations special, I am only suggesting that to support and manage our downtown Plaza, post CRA, joint ventures might become necessary.
While Englewood’s CRA has been incredibly helpful over the years permitting events, solving problems, funding the capital projects we needed that only governments can afford, it has also been our collective efforts that are responsible for a lot of the downtown’s revitalization. Example, it has been the Moose’s, the Elks, the Rotary Clubs, the Lions Club, the Chamber of Commerce, the Masonic Lodge, OEVA, private promoters, large and small businesses, investors, volunteers, even our visiting consumers that have participated in our town’s revitalization.
This is why OEVA is looking forward, instead of comfortably resting on past accomplishments. If we collectively keep looking ahead and continue to plant the seeds that grow better communities, like expanding our commercial zoning that supports mixed uses, connecting our “walking arts” district to Dearborn’s events, continue to ponder our parking needs, encourage alternative transportation systems, expand our pedestrian access and collectively support our Plaza, then we all win.
If you would like to help, join our organization, or if you have some creative ideas or practical suggestions, please contact us through the web site www.oldEnglewood.com, or write us at email@example.com.
Todd Tracy is the Vice President of the Olde Englewood Village Association.