Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

LIGHTS FOR THE BOULEVARD? City, Businesses Look at Best Ways to Expand Nights of Lights Event

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

LIGHTS FOR THE BOULEVARD? City, Businesses Look at Best Ways to Expand Nights of Lights Event

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Korfhage

As St. Augustine's Nights of Lights Celebration continues to garner attention from visitors, it's also seeing increased interest from those who would like to see more visitors venture a few extra blocks outside the center of the city.

The city's signature holiday display that is mentioned by various media outlets as a top Christmastime attraction is often credited with adding potential customers at downtown businesses. Some of those just outside the traditional core are looking for ways to be included in the festive spirit and decorations.

With a little help, it's starting to happen, and could expand even more in future years.

St. Augustine director of public affairs Paul Williamson said the city is looking at the possibility of including areas on Anastasia Boulevard and up San Marco Avenue in the celebration, but it's not as simple as just stringing up a few extra strands of lights.

"It's a bigger task than people think it is, but it's not an impossible one," Williamson said.

For instance, many people would probably enjoy seeing lights on the few trees in the median on Anastasia Boulevard. But there are a lot of obstacles, Williamson said. First, the property is not owned by the city but by the Florida Department of Transportation, so permits would have to be obtained.

Secondly, and more problematic, there is no power source there. It could be wired if needed, but that would require some planning by the public works department.

And finally, there is the cost to consider when adding lights, infrastructure improvements and more electricity consumption. The city already spends about $135,000 on the lights each year - part of which is offset by a $40,000 grant from the Tourist Development Council.

"We are certainly interested in pursuing it," Williamson said. "January is a wonderful time to take stock of where we are with (Nights of Lights). We're always looking for a way to make it bigger. …

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