The main street of Venice Island is actually not Main St at all. It's Venice Avenue. I've always loved what a beautiful introduction Venice Ave is for visitors to our fair isle. As a visitor approaches that initial rise onto the Venice Avenue bridge the first thing to admire off to the right is the old Venice Train Station which is lovely preserved piece of Venice history (and now serves as a bus station). In the same area is a glimpse of the gorgeous Legacy biking/hiking trail. Then as visitors up and over the crest of the bridge they can look out of either window to lovely views of the water and boats of the Intercoastal Waterway which leads right out into the gulf of Mexico. Then has the car hums back down the other side of the bridge onto the island there is a traffic light and directly ahead is our part of Venice Avenue.
One side of the Avenue is traffic west, the other side is traffic east so there are two lanes in each direction with the prettiest little median in between. Lined with beautiful palms trees and dotted with greenery and flowers it is a feast for the eyes. The top of Venice Avenue is bordered by shops and restaurants, benches and awnings, a park on one side, and endless things to see. This gradually segues into blocks of lovely old houses with an even prettier, wider median that has a path weaving through it and old oaks gently canopying the street. And all of this leads you eventually straight to Venice Beach. It's a straight shot west.
But right now it's not so pretty. It's all torn to crap. Oh I get it. Sometimes you have to make a mess before you can make something look better. I do understand. And I agree that the road needed to be resurfaced. It was pretty lumpy, bumpy. And if the arborists all agree that some of the trees were damaged or diseased and needed to come down, well that happens. But I have seen the artists rendering for what they intend to do to "improve" the look of Venice Avenue and well, hmmmm. Not sure how much of an actual improvement it is.
It will be different than it was for sure and sometimes different is good. But sometimes people change things just for the sake of change. So it's not better, it's just different. And other times people latch on to a new idea just because it's new, and again, not necessarily better.
Part of the charm of Venice Island overall is it's history and I love the way history is celebrated here. The first time I visited the island I was captivated because I felt as if I was stepping back in time a little bit. There was the feeling that everything here had always been that way and that it always would be; frozen in time (well as frozen as anything can be in Florida). Venice Island is unlike any place I've ever been. It feels like old Italy, no wait, more old Florida, no wait, it's the deep south, hold on, it's a seaside village.... I guess it's hard to describe. It has a small village feel for all that it is a city and there is a real sense of community with it's residents. It's peaceful and sweet and alluring and it is a little bit like living in a bubble because as soon as I drive back over the bridge off the island, that feeling is gone. It is unique.
I fear that the "improvements" are going to take away that uniqueness and while I am certain it will be very nice, I am concerned that our Lovely Old Venice Avenue is going to be rather generic looking, like any other nice Left Coast Florida town. And that would be a damned shame. I hope I am wrong.
And meanwhile it's a mess. Just this weekend somebody (I assume a visitor) was the wrong way on the only part of Venice Avenue that is open and traffic was rather a mess from that. And for now, when the wind blows down the street, the dirt snakes through the safety barriers onto the sidewalks, the al fresco diners, through any open doorways and onto the passersby. And then too, not to be superficial about it all, it's just not pretty right now.
It's all supposed to be fixed and ready to go in November and if that's true it will most likely be the first construction project in the history of Florida that was completed on time. But I have my fingers crossed and I am trying very hard to reserve judgement until I see the finished product. And in the meantime, I am making it a point to frequent the shops and restaurants on Venice Avenue because you gotta know that this construction zone mess is impacting them negatively.
Anyone local who is reading this, please get out there and support the businesses on Venice Avenue now through the end of this project. Everyone else, please keep a good thought. This too can happen to you! Construction projects are necessary and what's more, they are everywhere!
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.