Commissioner hopes to boost business, Anna Maria park events

The loss of one treasure may have led to the discovery of another amenity’s value.

Pine Avenue has become host to a stream of people drawn to City Pier Park, situated at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard in Anna Maria, as they take part in such city-sponsored events as weekly winter farmers markets and Movies in the Park.

When the historic Anna Maria City Pier was closed in September 2017 due to storm damage, Mayor Dan Murphy proposed a market to draw people to Pine Avenue, one of two main commercial streets in the city, and to create a sense of community.

The city commission approved a seasonal Tuesday market and later approved Movies in the Park, a weekly event in which the city screens a family-friendly film and provides beverages to viewers.

The events have been a hit, according to the mayor.

“I look at the Movies in the Park last Wednesday, for example,” he said in an interview Jan. 2. “There were over 80 people there. I’ve only gotten positive feedback for the events, and people seem to be happy that we are successful in building a sense of community in the city.”

Commission Chair Brian Seymour said in an interview Jan. 2, “I really do feel that so far the events have been a huge success. The farmers market on Tuesdays is very well attended and the amount of vendors that keep coming back weekly show it’s worth their time.”

Karsen Lonzo, manager of Island Cabana, 403 Pine Ave., said events have helped minimize economic losses due to the loss of traffic to the old pier and the effects of red tide.

“Having the pier being closed hasn’t really affected us a lot, but I think that might be because they do the events at the park,” she said in an interview Jan. 3. “On Tuesdays, when there is the farmers market, we see tons of people coming in with bags and produce.”

In addition to the Lilly Pulitzer women’s clothing sign at the front of the shop, Lonzo said the Island Cabana doubles down on its most recognizable brand to capitalize on Tuesdays’ increased traffic by providing Pulitzer-branded bags to carry away purchases.

Seymour, citing the success of ongoing events, wants to see more events in the park, which in addition to the markets and screenings has hosted some holiday events.

“I would definitely like to see events continue after the pier is finished,” said Seymour, who has a business on Pine Avenue, the Anna Maria General Store. “They help us build community spirit.”

“Some ideas we need to discuss, but I have heard or been asked about looking into musical events in the park, community yard-sale type of events, etc.,” he said. “We are trying to add fiscally responsible events, as setup and cleanup is handled by our city staff, which could get out of control cost-wise if we try and do a lot of events.”

Murphy encouraged people to bring community-minded events to the space, like when the Anna Maria Island Privateers hosted Snooks Adams Kids Day at the park in 2018.

“I don’t think City Pier Park should ever turn into a commercial venue,” the mayor said. “But I think it is a great venue for nonprofits to have events.

Groups or individuals interested in hosting an event in the park must obtain a special event permit from the city, which requires commission approval, payment of a $200 nonrefundable fee and submission of a site plan or drawing for the event, as well as proof of insurance with a minimum of $1,000,000 in general liability coverage.

“It’s a great venue for community-type events, not just city-sponsored events,” Murphy said.

However, he cautioned, “I think you can reach a tipping point, and I don’t want to reach a tipping point, but it’s good to see people back on Pine Avenue now and on Gulf Drive. It’s good to see people back in our city.”

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