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Florida’s legislators propose plan to expand capitol complex for 'Memorial Park'

New signage greets visitors to the Florida capitol complex.
Lynn Hatter
New signage greets visitors to the Florida capitol complex.

If passed, HB 5201 would place five future monuments, including a veterans’ garden, holocaust, and slavery memorial, in one general location along Monroe Street in downtown Tallahassee.

Yet, not all lawmakers are backing the state’s expansion plan. Broward County Democratic Rep. Michael Gottlieb believes the park is a bad idea.

“I’m concerned about a memorial park in terms of putting all these memorials, some of which are unrelated and may not have any summer substance to do with a memorial that could be near them," said Gottlieb. "What’s a memorial to one, may be offensive to another.”

Bill sponsors say the nearly constant construction at the Capitol during the past few years has delayed the erection of already-approved memorials.

The bill authorizes the Department of Management Services to oversee the project. If the legislature agrees and Gov. Ron DeSantis signs off on the measure, Memorial Park is expected to be complete by July of next year.

Republican Rep. Randy Fine of Brevard County opposes the bill because of what he says is DMS’ lack of communication and a failure to finish the current plans. Fine is concerned that creating a memorial park would just prolong projects like the Holocaust Memorial, even more.

“This memorial has [waited] for seven years and we have been given excuse after excuse as to why it could not be completed," said Fine. "Just several weeks ago, Rep. Gottlieb and I were told it would be finished by January of 2024, and it would be finished as what we presently considered to be the Capitol. We were told that by DMS. Not across the street, not in some new park, but what we consider the Capitol.”

The Elliot building, directly across the street from the historic Capitol on Monroe Street, would be one of the first structures to undergo demolition to make room for Memorial Park. The building is currently owned and occupied by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Adrian Andrews is a multimedia journalist with WFSU Public Media. He is a Gadsden County native and a first-generation college graduate from Florida A&M University. Adrian is also a military veteran, ending his career as a Florida Army National Guard Non-Comissioned Officer.

Adrian has experience in print writing, digital content creation, documentary, and film production. He has spent the last four years on the staff of several award-winning publications such as The Famuan, Gadsden County News Corp, and Cumulus Media before joining the WFSU news team.