Imagination and reality

News from the University of Florida PR shop: A team of UF design and engineering students have won a $3,500 grand in the Witters Competition for their reimagining of Gainesville’s redundant – which is to say shuttered – fire station on South Main Street.

In their fertile imaginations, the old station would be rebranded “Firescape,” and would one day be remade into a performing arts center.

“FireScape serves as a community resource where people can engage with one another and form dynamic relationships through the lens of performing arts. Complete with a vendor space, storage/art display walk, black box room, an open-air theater and more, Firescape is a safe and inviting environment for Gainesville residents to connect and grow together,” is the way the UF PR types put it.

“Safe” and “inviting” being key words in this scenario.

It’s a nice idea. And who knows, it might even come to fruition one day. I hope so, because it would certainly be preferable to the off-the-books homeless shelter the City is currently running in front of the old station.

For the record City Hall claims neither credit nor responsibility for the street people who have pitched their tents and strung their tarps on City property. Doing so would require a degree of stewardship for the settlement that neither commissioners or bureaucrats care to accept.

Suffice it to say that the city provides port-a-lets, lockers and trash collection services for the Fire Station’s Tent Village. And whatever else may happen there is out of City Hall’s hands.

So if the old fire station is now the most visible evidence that South Main Street has turned into a skid row, that’s neither the City’s fault nor its responsibility.

I don’t know if the “Firescape” vision will ever come to fruition. But in the meantime it might be better for the City to lease the old fire station – for $1 a year – to Grace, the St. Francis House or the Salvation
Army.

At least those organizations know how to deal with the homeless – and are not afraid to take responsibility for their stewardship.

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