An empty lot could be used to breathe new life into historic Dearborn Street in Englewood. Close to a quarter of a million dollars has been approved to establish a central park in the area.
Shoppers like Marlene Schneberger like the atmosphere. "It's kind of quite and laid back. Some nice little shops."
Earl Warren has lived here since 1965. Owned a business along the stretch since 1977. He says he's seen it a lot busier. "This street was U.S. 41. There was no 776."
Remembering when the post office shops had one. "When the post office left, since that point this street has struggled."
Currently the area considered by many as downtown Englewood is getting a little attention. Millions are already at work building a new storm water runoff system. Now the money has been approved to develop what is known as Pioneer Park. Today it's really just an empty lot. Soon it will be upgraded with pavers, electrical outlets, a portable stage, and other amenities. "That piece of property is central on this street. The street is about a mile long from the traffic light to the water. That is about half way. The whole theme has been to find some central activity and a location for that," says Warren.
Perhaps giving an identity to the place where right now you can also find a number of buildings run down and blocked off. Recently Schneberger says she's seen a lot more for rent signs too. "I think it is very sad that they can't make a go of it. I don't know what the secret is to keep them going but it would be nice."
For years the park site has been used for the annual Pioneer Days festivities. Now a farmers market on Thursdays. Still, not a lot has changed says Warren. "Sarasota County has looked the other way for a lot of years and has not spent time or money on Englewood."
A small step those like Schneberger say in the right direction. "Sprucing up is always good for anything."
County officials tell us improvements to the park here are not expected to be complete until the end of the year.
The improvements are being paid for with money from the penny sales tax. The money was initially intended to help build a new Lemon Bay Playhouse, but that plan fell through.