Workshop focuses on Visitor Center facilities

A two-hour City Commission workshop, before Monday’s regular City Commission meeting, focused on remodeling of the Visitor Information Center as an event venue and a review of city codes for better use of the promenade.

Since the failure of First America Foundation, City Manager John Regan has taken on management of the 450th Commemoration as a staff project; in cooperation with the federal St. Augustine 450th Commemoration commission.

The workshops, which have been held prior to the regular commission meetings for the past couple of months, have been “brainstorming” sessions where some of the ideas and planning has been aired — giving commissioners and the public an opportunity to hear and see the progress being made.

The promenade, between the Visitor Information Center and the Historic Downtown Parking Facility, was in the spotlight recently when St. Augustine promoter Stuart Gamsey, was looking into staging an updated version of St. Augustine’s Days in Spain fiesta at that location.

Because it is designated as a “limited public forum” area, under current ordinances the promenade cannot be used for revenue-generating alcohol sales. That was the end of Gamsey’s plans for the once-popular downtown festival — at least for this year.

Gamsey says that he’s moving on to another festival-revival, Ponce de Leon Days; traditionally celebrated in the spring. City officials and staff will reportedly be working on possible revisions to the existing restrictions.

Turning to the Visitor Information Center, which planners keep returning to when evaluating suitable exhibition venues, Regan reported that “remodeling of this space is the most realistic way to create exhibit space”.

Regan promised to have architectural and business plans prepared for redesign of existing space and return when more details are available.

At an estimated cost of between $400,000 and $500,000, City Commissioner Leanna Freeman said, “I’m not comfortable unless it makes sense” in return on investment.

“We don’t have money for our Spanish Quarter,” Freeman asked, rhetorically. “But, now we’re talking about spending money on the Visitor Center?”

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer

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