Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

City Given Ideas to Build Future

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

City Given Ideas to Build Future

Article excerpt

INPUT: Many agree Venice must make itself a magnet for younger generations

VENICE

Diversifying the job base and providing more housing and other opportunities for young adults and families with children should rank high among the city of Venice's priorities, business and community leaders say.

On Monday, the City Council asked for the opinions of about 50 representatives of advisory boards, major employers, schools, churches, nonprofits, neighborhood associations and business, arts, sports and volunteer organizations.

All of them offered suggestions about how best to steer Venice's future. And a recurring theme in the six-hour discussion was that more should be done for younger generations in this city, which has the oldest population of any non-retirement community in the nation.

"We've gotten tremendous input," Mayor John Holic told the group.

The council intends to refer to that input as it devises a strategic plan in the weeks ahead. That strategy is likely to be multi-faceted, addressing issues ranging from parking to jobs to environmental protection.

If the advice that the council heard Monday is followed, a heavy emphasis will be placed on broadening the city's appeal to young adults, teenagers and children.

According to recently updated census data, the median age in Venice is 66.7. More than 53 percent of the population is 65 or older, while 2.2 percent are ages 15 to 19 and about 4.3 percent is in the after-college age range of 25 to 34.

"Keeping our youth in this city" should rank as a top concern, John Ryan, president of the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce, said.

That means attracting higher-paying jobs and getting housing within the city limits that working families can afford, numerous speakers agreed.

"Venice will be losing people who graduated from Venice High and went on to college," Venice Housing Authority member Jason Weaver warned.

Cindy Esselburn of the Venice Area Board of Realtors said the city should concentrate more on "bringing a younger core of people" who are paid wages that enable them to afford to live in the city. "Are we concentrating just on tourism? On retirement?"

"The people who work here aren't the people who live here," Kati Council of the chamber's Young Professionals group said. …

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