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Williams Park question seems to defy answers in St. Petersburg

Robert Butler, who lives nearby, has been coming to Williams Park almost daily for the past 15 years. He’s sitting on his favorite bench.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Robert Butler, who lives nearby, has been coming to Williams Park almost daily for the past 15 years. He’s sitting on his favorite bench.

Williams Park, a passive green space in the heart of St. Petersburg's central business district, has been a gathering place for the homeless for quite some time. A decade ago, when all eyes were fixated on the developing skyline along tony Beach Drive, they moved in, with little or no protests. After all this time, they've been there long enough to claim squatters rights.

They've survived the 2010 pan-handling ban and suspensions from the park. In 2011, the city removed some park benches to prevent the homeless from sleeping in public spaces. They endured being shipped off to Pinellas Hope. But each time, they seem to find their way back home, to the park.

Now comes a revealing report from Times reporter John Woodrow Cox, and city officials are jostling to be the first to stake a claim on saving the park — again.

It has gotten to the point where the homeless seem to flock to the park in season, like snowbirds.

The city continues to come up with solutions to the problem, but each time it seems as if they're putting a bandage on a gaping hole.

Why is the city having such a hard time taking control of Williams Park? Officials have tried before.

There was the Wednesday Market in the Park, Art in Park and another outfit hosted concerts in the park. The Saturday Morning Market folks held a couple of summer markets there, too.

Like it or not, it has become the people's park. And it appears that no set of laws or ordinances seem to be able to stem the flow of people from gathering there.

Creating in new spaces

Some of the Salt Creek artists are finding new digs.

Back in May, we learned that the owners of Salt Creek Artworks at 1600 Fourth St. S had sold the building and it would soon be razed for a parking lot for a neighboring fish processing plant.

The building sits empty today, but some of the 42 displaced artists are finding new creative spaces in the Grand Central Business District. Four of those artists, including Herb Snitzer and Carol Dameron, are moving into 2109 Central Ave. and are hosting an open house March 9.

Lance Rodgers, artist and former curator at Salt Creek, is sharing space with the Opera Company on First Avenue S. For the most part, artists are finding space throughout the city.

Picture this promotion

Sacino's is looking for a few good shots.

To celebrate 100 years in business, Sacino's Formalwear in St. Petersburg is looking for old prom, black-tie and wedding photographs.

The company, with headquarters at 3430 Fairfield Ave. S, spans four generations and is especially interested in photos featuring two or more generations in Sacino's formal wear. Send your photos to memories@sacino.com.

Contact Sandra J. Gadsden at sgadsden@tampabay.com or at (727) 893-8874 and on Twitter at @StPeteSandi.

Williams Park question seems to defy answers in St. Petersburg 02/23/13 [Last modified: Friday, February 22, 2013 5:25pm]

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