Venice MainStreet’s History and Downtown Projects

ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY & DOWNTOWN PROJECTS
1985
The Downtown Venice Association was formed by the former Merchants Association in Venice, originally established in 1965.

1987
The Downtown Venice Association, with support from the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Venice, decides to form a non-profit corporation enabling them to apply for the Florida Main Street Project. By a unanimous decision of those at this meeting, Paul Intagliata, George Hunter, Jr, Bill Reilly, Jerrel Towery and Don Patterson were elected as the first five board members of Venice Main Street, Inc.

1988
Venice is chosen as a Florida MainStreet City and selects its first MainStreet manager. Venice MainStreet, Inc. received its 501(c)3 tax exempt status. First year activities concentrated on the organization’s foundation work. A full-time manager, Doug Mann, is hired to oversee the activities, educate participants and the public and promote the program. Heavy emphasis is placed on promotional activities and producing newsletters, brochures and special events held in conjunction with other community groups. Rehab projects, locating new businesses in the downtown area and annual special events give an overall sense that the core of the downtown area is not only thriving but progressing and that the program is working.

1989
Second year activities encompass more visible aspects of the program, such as the Gateway Arch sign at the entrance of the downtown area, in the median of the first block of West Venice Avenue. Supported by pairs of columns, this sign shows Venice’s commitment to preserving its Northern Italian-style architecture. The area is enhanced by the Venice Area Garden Club’s landscaping project. 

1992
Venice MainStreet (VMS) donates $1,500 to the historic Triangle Inn project.

1995
VMS partners with the City of Venice to design the Centennial Park restrooms. The City receives national awards for the designs.

1996
VMS installs cement podiums and way-finding maps throughout downtown Venice.

Together with Venice Heritage Foundation, VMS funds a feasibility study of renovating the Historic Train Depot.

Designs and purchases city light pole banners and Christmas lights. The City of Venice helps to install them.

Approved and participated in the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce 20/20 Vision of Venice Task Force.

1997
Installs newspaper boxes downtown.

Rollins Coakley sat on the Venice MainStreet Task Force for renovation planning of the Historic Venice Train Depot.

1998
Designs and constructs the downtown Information Kiosk in Centennial Park.

2006
Through grants from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Ehrhart Family Foundation, VMS installs the Intergenerational Fountain in Centennial Park.

2011
In partnership with Venice Area Beautification Inc, VMS installs 12 bike racks.

2014
VMS, Venice Blue’s Festival, and Suncoast Blues Society donate $1,000 for Venice High School Band Sousaphone repairs.

2015
Installs lighted Venice advertisement at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ).

Partners with Venice Heritage, Inc. (VHI) to produce and install 186 historic sign toppers that identify the historic John Nolen District. VMS and VHI receive the 2016 Heritage Award in Public Education for the project by the History & Preservation Coalition of Sarasota County.

VMS, Venice Blue’s Festival, and Suncoast Blues Society donate $3,000 to the Venice High School Band.

Launches www.VisitVeniceFL.org, the go-to website for Venice residents and visitors. Within a year, the site gets 10,000 visitors per month.

2016
Updates iconic West Venice Avenue archway sign with state-of-the-art, electronic LED sign.

Launches Lovin’ Our Locals summertime campaign directed at creating a renewed sense of ownership in downtown by year-round Venice residents.

In a joint project with Venice Area Beautification Inc, VMS installs 13 planted pots along Miami Ave. This project was supported by a grant from the Venice Area Garden Club. 

2017
Installs large advertisement mural titled “Venice Is” at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) showcasing all the benefits Venice has to offer visitors and the community, with the help of supporting grants from Visit Sarasota, the Ehrhart Family Foundation and our advertising partners.

2018
Begins year-long “Summer of Love” marketing campaign, with support from Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Venice Gondolier Sun, to keep locals and tourists visiting the historic district during construction resulting from the Downtown Venice Beautification Project by the City of Venice (Venice, Florida Municipal Government).

2019
Completes interactive, three-dimensional mural project at the corner of West Venice Avenue and Nassau Street (east wall of Celebration Corner) painted by David Lee with funding from Visit Florida, Ehrhart Family Foundation, and private donors.

In the summer, begins monthly appearances on ABC7’s Suncoast View to showcase downtown Venice district, shops and restaurants.

Launches improved website visitvenicefl.org with interactive map of local businesses and organizations funded by Visit Florida.

On November 12th, the City of Venice makes a proclamation to welcome new fairy residents to Venice. This launches the fairy door project in downtown Venice where ceramic doors made by local artists and high school students are installed by The Venice Company. This is a joint project between Venice MainStreet and the Venice Art Center, with funding from The Ehrhart Family Foundation.

2020
View annual report

2021
View annual report

Explore Local History

There are so many fun ways to discover local Venice history! Here are some great options to explore.

FREE:

Historic Downtown Venice Self-Guided Tour
Online map available HERE
Pick up a printed map at the Centennial Park Information Kiosk at 200 West Venice Avenue
or at the Venice MainStreet Office at 101 West Venice Ave. Suite 23.

 


Historic Venice Train Depot

Explore on your own or take a docent-led tour of the historic 1927 Venice Train Depot. Tours are offered by the Venice Area Historical Society (please check website for tour details). Explore the adjacent Rollins W. Coakley Railroad Park with its statue of the famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus animal trainer, Gunther Gebel Williams; a restored caboose, donated by CSX Corporation; and restored Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train car installed in 2021. Located at 303 East Venice Ave., Venice FL 34285.
veniceareahistoricalsociety.org

Kentucky Military Institute display at San Marco Building
Visitors to the historic San Marco on Tampa Avenue can enjoy a display honoring the legacy of the Kentucky Military Institute (KMI) in Venice. Funded by the KMI Alumni Association, in partnership with the Venice Centre Association and its collection, it includes memorabilia, photographs and a documentary on the fascinating history of the military school in Venice from 1933 to 1970. 
238 Tampa Avenue West, Venice, FL 34285
Learn more about the San Marco


Lord-Higel House
Constructed in 1896 by Joseph Lord, the Lord-Higel House is the second oldest house in Sarasota County.
409 Granada Ave., Venice, FL 34285
veniceheritage.org

 


Sarasota County Auto Tours

The Sarasota County Centennial Committee is pleased to announce the release of its auto tours available on a free app. Explore Sarasota County’s notable landmarks and places of interest.
As you travel from place to place we’ll take you back in time. Hear the stories and see the sights that are part of the colorful history of Sarasota County, Florida. Audio narration and travel directions will trigger automatically as you drive (with GPS location services enabled on your phone). Auto Tours include the following: BAYFRONT, BEE RIDGE, COURTHOUSE AREA, DOWNTOWN/5 POINTS, ENGLEWOOD, 
FRUITVILLE to MIAKKA, PHILLIPPI, and VAMO to LAUREL.
Narrated history tour download available HERE

Venice Museum & Archives
Located in the historic Triangle Inn listed on National Register of Historic Places. Docent-led tours available.
Current Exhibits:
Venice Area African American History: Over 100 Years in the Making, now through July 27, 2022
Life on the Venice Army Air Base: The Vaughn Pitman Collection, now through January 18, 2023
351 Nassau Street South, Venice, FL 34285
(941) 486-2487
venicemuseum.org

 


Venice Quest Scavenger Hunt

Presented by Venice Area Chamber of Commerce. Download free Scavify App at Google Play or AppStore.
– FantaSea Mermaids & Seahorses Quest
– History
– Arts & Culture
– Downtown/Venice Beach Walk
– Young at Heart
– Shark Spotting
– Search for Fairy Doors
– Venice Public Library Centennial Quest
venicechamber.com

________________________________________________
NEED TICKETS OR RESERVATIONS:


Sarasota Suncoast Tours/ Key Culinary Tours
Offers Sarasota County area ghost tours, family adventure tours, private group sightseeing trolley or mini bus tours, and food tours. 
keyculinarytours.com

 

 

 

Architectural Walking Tours

Offered by Venice Museum & Archives
Seasonal walking tours (typically January through April) 

Explore historic neighborhoods and architecture on Venice island led by Architectural Historian, Sebastian Liseo.
venicemuseum.org


 

Venice Florida Tours
Offers Venice history walking, bicycling, ghost tours, as well as tours by golf cart. Private tours are also available upon request.
venicefltours.com

 

Hints

SHARK SPOTTING LOCATION HINTS

West Venice Avenue (5 sharks)
Dedication plaque- 200 West Venice Avenue by children’s splash pad fountain
#1 Megalodon Shark, 200 West Venice Avenue- Centennial Park gazebo
#5 Bull Shark, 310 West Venice Avenue- FourThought Private Wealth building, next to Rose & Leo boutique
#6 Sandbar Shark, 303 West Venice Avenue- near Celebration Corner and Lisa’s Classic Rose stores
#7 Hammerhead Shark, Near 237 West Venice Avenue- Founders Walkway with mural connecting Venice Ave. with Miami Ave.
#10 Blacktip Shark, 141 West Venice Avenue- SunBug boutique

Nokomis Avenue N (1 shark)
#2 Tiger Shark, 110 Nokomis Avenue N- near Michael Saunders & Company real estate office

Tampa Avenue W (2 sharks)
#3 Snaggletooth Shark, 100 Tampa Avenue West- Michael Biehl Park next to Venice Theatre
#4 Lemon Shark, 238 Tampa Avenue West- San Marco building

Miami Avenue W (2 sharks)
#8 Nurse Shark, 312 Miami Avenue West- First Baptist Church
#9 Bonnethead Shark, Intersection of Miami Avenue West, Ponce De Leon and Nokomis Avenue- Fountain Park

2020 Venice MainStreet Programs and Projects

2020 PROJECTS
Despite the challenges of reduced staff hours, as a result of the financial impact of COVID-19 on our organization, we still managed to accomplish a great deal in 2020, along with our 18 downtown district events.

COVID-19 RESPONSE
– Created COVID-19 resource page on VisitVeniceFL.org to assist local businesses
– Distributed thousands of masks in partnership with the City of Venice
– Collaborated with the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce on COVID-19 safety plan signs and Positivity Wall project

WEBSITE IMPROVEMENTS
– Created 16 new website pages for VisitVeniceFL.org to provide in depth content
– Digitized past art festival posters and uploaded to VisitVeniceFL.org

NEW MARKETING STRATEGIES
– Implemented “Looking forward to your safe return” marketing campaign
– Offered over 60 free Venice Gondolier Sun advertisements to partners
– Advertised in Venice Gulf Coast Living and Venice Lifestyle magazines
– Highlighted downtown Venice and 11 business partners in 4 Suncoast View television spots

CONTINUED MARKETING STRATEGIES
– Published 53 newsletters sharing information on thousands of events and partner announcements
– Posted 69 news blogs on VisitVeniceFL.org
– Posted 1,282 community events on VisitVeniceFL.org 2020 calendar
– Created district and partner-focused content for 12 full pages in the Venice Gondolier Sun, published bi-monthly
– Created and published 20,000 copies of the printed Venice MainStreet directory
– Continued funding Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport “Venice Is” advertising mural
– Managed content and promotions on downtown LED gateway arch sign
– Managed Downtown Ambassadors volunteer program and information kiosk
– Managed content on our social media platforms and purchased Facebook ads

HISTORIC PRESERVATION PROMOTION & ADVOCACY
– Updated downtown historic walking tour webpage on VisitVeniceFL.org
– Wrote letters of support for Old Betsy fire turck storage/exhibit building and 233 Pensacola Road historic house preservation

COMMUNITY OUTREACH
– Promoted VMS and downtown district by giving talks to Venice Citizens Academy; Venice Gardens Civic Association; Business and Professional Women of Englewood and Venice; and Visit Sarasota groups

DOWNTOWN DESIGN ACTIVITIES
– Launched downtown Fairy Door project, VeniceFairies.com website and Facebook page
– Partnered with the City of Venice to install 3 alleyway signs for Calle de las Tiendas
– Held call to artists and judged 2020 Venice Art Festival poster contest
– Funded additional downtown holiday lighting and Venice Area Garden Club decorations
– Held downtown holiday window decorating contest and awarded 6 winners

2020 EVENTS
Venice MainStreet’s Friday Night Gazebo Concert Series

January 10- Josh Reilly Trio
January 24- Johnny Rawls
February 14 – Patchouli and Terra Guitarra
February 28 – Wendy Barmore
March 13 – Matthew Mayes and Forrest Shafer
November 13- Cryin’ Shames
November 27- Blues to Blackstreet
December 11- Sounds of Christmas

Gazebo Starlight Cinema in partnership with Venice Institute for the Performing Arts
January 3- Percy Jackson and the Olympians
February 7- X-Men
March 6- The Sand Lot

Venice MainStreet’s Signature Events
– 13th Annual Downtown Venice Craft Festival in partnership with Howard Alan Events, January 25-26
– Braves on Miami Ave.: Mardi Gras Style in partnership with Atlanta Braves, February 8
– Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras Crawl, February 25
– 19th Annual Venice Art Classic in partnership with Howard Alan Events, March 7-8
– Christmas in July, July 17-18
– Shoptember Sidewalk Sale, September 4-5
– Classic Evenings on the Avenues, October 8
– Classic Evenings on the Avenues, October 22
– Chocolate Walk, November 19
– Christmas Walk, December 3

Archived Newsletters

2021 Newsletters
December 30
December 23
December 16
December 9
December 2

November 25
November 18
November 11
November 4

October 28
October 21
October 14
October 7

September 30
September 23
September 16
September 9
September 2

August 26
August 19
August 12
August 5

July 29
July 22
July 15
July 8
July 1

June 24
June 17
June 10
June 3

May 27
May 20
May 13
May 6

April 29
April 22
April 15
April 8
April 1

March 25
March 18
March 11
March 4

February 25
February 18
February 11
February 4

January 28
January 21
January 14
January 7

2020 Newsletters
December 31
December 24
December 17
December 10
December 3

November 26
November 19
November 12
November 5

October 29
October 22
October 15
October 8
October
1

September 24
September 17
September 10
September 3

August 27
August 20
August 13
August 6

July 30
July 23
July 16
July 9
July 2

June 25
June 18
June 11
June 4

May 28
May 21
May 14
May 7

April 30
April 23
April 16
April 9
April 2

March 26
March 19
March 12
March 5

February 27
February 20
February 13
February 6

January 30
January 23
January 16
January 9
January 2

Community Links

CITY OF VENICE MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT
 
LOCAL COVID-19 RESOURCES
 
HURRICANE & EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS