VENICE — The year 2019 will be remembered for big gains in Venice for its business and community improvements.

Officials are hoping for another good year in 2020.

“In 2020 the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce has a clear vision and focus of business growth and success for all of our members future,” Venice Area Chamber of Commerce President Kathy Lehner said in a message.

The top stories for 2019 included:

10 In November, Venice Theatre completed the purchase of the Hamilton Building.

Venice Theatre officials signed papers closing their deal on the purchase of the Arts Education Building — formerly known as the Hamilton Building.

The $1.06 million deal sale from the city of Venice will lead to a renovation to the 9,518-square foot building, according to Venice Theatre officials. That will ultimately lead to it becoming the theater’s “new home for its growing Education & Outreach Department.”

9 On May 28, “Guardians of the Glades” featuring Venice-area resident Dusty “Wildman” Crum debuts on the Discovery Channel. The series features snake captures and python wrestling all laced with Crum’s humor.

He and his crew are fighting to save the Glades. The pythons were released into the wild during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and are an invasive breeding population.

8 In July, Detwiler’s began enlarging its Venice market at 1250 U.S. 41 Bypass, Venice.

Demand for its fresh vegetables and fruit, meats, fish, baked goods and other products has grown considerably since the market opened in a portion of the 47,000-square-foot building, which was built in 1974.

7 On Oct. 3, Marshalls opens at Jacaranda Plaza to huge crowds at 1679 U.S. 41 Bypass S. Plaza in a former K-Mart location. Benderson Development of Lakewood Ranch acquired the 401,129 square feet Jacaranda Plaza in July 2007 for $5.5 million from Southeast Partners.

Soon after, Benderson began revitalizing the existing store fronts and slowly began improving the appearance of the plaza.

6 In June, B&B Theatres purchases Franks Theatres in South Venice and later announced a $1 million upgrade.

The first phase includes the largest theater was ready to accommodate the launch of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” Intentions are to have seven auditoriums operational throughout the upgrading period — however, in March 2020, the theater may close for a few days during lobby upgrades.

5 In June, Freedom Boat based in Venice was purchased by Brunswick Corporation of Mettawa, Illinois. Brunswick is expanding its presence within the emerging boat club segment by acquiring Freedom.

FBC is the premier marine franchiser in the nation. Founded 30 years ago in Sarasota, it operated on a timeshare model until then-owner Robert Daley changed the pricing structure.

Its franchisees service more than 20,000 members across 30 states, Canada and Europe. John Giglio and his management team continue to lead Freedom Boat Club.

4 In September, Bill Buck Chevrolet, a fixture in the Venice business community for more than 50 years, was sold. The buyer is Ocala-based Jenkins Auto Group.

The dealership is now known as Jenkins Chevrolet of Venice. The sales price was not disclosed.

Robyn Calkins, the owner of Bill Buck Chevrolet and the granddaughter of founder Bill Buck Sr., wrote of the sale in an email.

“It is with a heavy heart, but a very thankful one also, I am announcing that Eric (Calkins, her husband and co-owner) and I have sold Bill Buck Chevrolet,” she wrote. “I had always hoped that it would stay in my family for generations but my daughters’ lives have taken them on a different path and I am so proud of them.”

3 Downtown Venice and the Venice City Pier both underwent long renovations and reopened in 2019.

The Venice Downtown Beautification Project was commemorated in July — a year to the day after its groundbreaking. For months, stores and restaurants were hit with a double whammy of construction and red tide.

“You guys put up with a lot and we thank you an awful lot,” Mayor John Holic said.

The algal bloom abated and downtown has new streets, sidewalks, crosswalks, light poles, plant poles, utilities and more. The more-than $8 million project took about a year.

In August, the Venice Municipal Fishing Pier reopened. One of the city’s premiere tourist attractions, the pier had been closed since mid-May for repairs after Hurricane Irma damage in 2017.

“They really did a quality project,” City Engineer Kathleen Weeden said in August. “We’re super excited about getting it back open for public use.”

2 New hotels were proposed or underway during 2019.

In September, the City Council OK’d a hotel lease at Venice Municipal Airport grounds. It was years in the making.

The old Circus Arena, the site of the new hotel, had been abandoned for more than a decade and became dilapidated. Officials believe said the lease will become a much-needed source of revenue for the airport.

There was little recent talk about a new hotel plan until Airport Manager Mark Cervasio announced the FAA signed off on a lease agreement.

Plans for the property include a 130-room hotel, medical offices and and a restaurant with outdoor seating. It will be called Ringling Park.

In October, contractors began on infrastructure of the second Marriott hotel at the I-75 Jacaranda Interchange. TownePlace Suites by Marriott will be built across from the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott at 2935 Executive Drive.

The hotel will have 86 rooms. The site will adjoin the 10,000-square-feet TownePlace Plaza.

The hotel anticipates employing 25 to 30 local people when it opens in November 2020.

1 In April, Sarasota Memorial Hospital broke ground for its new hospital. The largest expansion in the history of Sarasota Memorial Hospital remains underway at the southeast corner of Laurel and Pinebrook roads.

This is the first time it has built another acute-care hospital.

SMH-Venice will be a full-service, 90-bed hospital offering cardiology, gastroenterology, obstetrics, neurology, oncology, orthopedics and urology, among other services.

It will have a 20-bed observation unit; a 28-bed ER; a 10-bed labor and delivery/post-partum unit; eight surgical suites, including a dedicated operating room for emergency and scheduled obstetrical procedures; a community clinic; a medical office building and a parking garage.

SMH CEO David Verinder lauded the Venice City Council, staff and city manager for making the process of getting city approvals for the project “as easy as it can be.”

Construction began in late summer and will take more than two years.

“We hope to open the doors in late 2021,” Verinder said. “And when I say ‘hope to,’ Sharon (Roush, the campus president), we are opening the doors in late 2021.”

Roush said the Venice facility will add more than 600 local jobs and will be a “huge economic engine” as businesses are started or expanded to serve it.

“We are truly excited to be able to transform health care in South County,” she said.


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