LGBT Culture in Danger - We Need to Organize Now to Safeguard Community | LETTER

Photo courtesy of Jude Belanger.

Wilton Drive Voice's mission is to safeguard our LGBT+ cultural heritage by preserving and advancing traditions, businesses, arts, health, non-profits, and practices for future generations.

New developments and an increasing population are on the horizon for Wilton Manors. Wilton Drive Voice was formed not to contest the multiple proposed new construction developments, but instead to ensure LGBT culture does not suffer along the way. Growth can bring more economic prosperity; however, LGBT businesses might pay an increased price in commercial space affordability. Can Wilton Manors embrace progress without a cost to our LGBT community?

The sky is not falling now; there is organic growth in LGBT businesses in Wilton Manors, a gift indeed! Wishing yum yum success to Cake Daddy. The critical point here is to safeguard LGBT culture for future generations.

History has proven with the gentrification of Key West and South Beach that diminishing LGBT culture is the price. Some can argue it's due to mobile apps; however, LGBT businesses suffer the most from unaffordable commercial leases.

Since these businesses are the economic driving force of the city and collectively significant, their cohesive voice is vital to the well-being of the city’s culture. LGBT cultural preservation is the foundation of the Wilton Drive Voice, safeguarding the identity of Wilton Manors as an LGBT destination and cultural epicenter. A draft LGBT Cultural Heritage Plan customized for Wilton Manors is much needed. Collaborating with businesses and nonprofits will ensure the LGBT community’s needs are fortified.

The Cultural plan unfolds in three parts: Health and Education, Economic Opportunity and Equality, and Arts, Community and Heritage.

The plan will unify the existing culture to define the city identity, endure cultural attacks and provide direction to revitalization initiatives for generations to come. Many LGBT destinations in the US are implementing preservation strategies as the culture wars attempt to erase the community. For example, The San Francisco Cultural Heritage Strategy in S.F., CA. or even some cities provide a division or department launching supportive initiatives. There is an LGBT liaison at the city of Wilton Manors, not a full time nor a part-time position, just a duty responsible for any phone calls or emails directly sent in-house to the city, like an information/help desk only.

The Grass Rivers developer for the Shoppes of Wilton Manors, (Alibi Monkey Bar and Hunters), was approved unanimously by Planning and Zoning. Wilton Drive Voice took action to balance the growing pains of these building developments, and met with the developer to discuss concessions for LGBT+ businesses in the new lease spaces. The developer offered to consider concessions in support of the LGBT+ business community; of course, these are words only, nothing official. Hopefully, the city commission will ask about these concessions from the developer at final approval. Wilton Drive Voice spoke at a city commission meeting to inform them of this concession request. See Commissioner’s comments below.

It’s not too late to consider concessions like the first two months free, reduced lease fees, etc., for these new commercial retail spaces. A criterion for approval or in the least do a minimal ask of support. Just like the city code for art installations without any criteria, they certainly can ask for concessions for LGBT businesses. Again, they are the economic driving force of the city and should be protected. Also on the horizon are Generation Wilton Manors, 190 apartments with retail, and a Hotel at five points are on the horizon.

The develops tools to safeguard this community within local LGBT businesses and communicates needs to city services. Ongoing safeguarding will ensure new development does not erase the LGBT culture but enhances it. Culture wars are evergreen and will always loom as well; Wilton Drive Voice can form an immediate task force of members to circle the wagons at times of need. In the last cultural attack, Wilton Drive Voice marched into city hall with 12 LGBT businesses owners and managers with Mr. Stonewall, Mr. Eagle, Mr. International Leather and 7 Queens from Hamburger Mary’s and spoke to city commission to consider an LGBT+ Cultural Heritage Plan.

Commissioner Chris Caputo is open to hearing more about the benefits, and Commissioner Mike Bracchi asked city staff to define the city identity and brand.

Wilton Manors is a unique LGBT destination, and future generations deserve to experience the safety, freedom, and cultural activities we have enjoyed. It’s not only a safe zone; it's an enlightened community that allows personal growth, independence, and self-love — a place liberated from fear, judgment, unworthiness, and hate. The youth deserve our same privilege; let’s not be entitled and act responsibly for generations to come. Take action, send emails, speak at city meetings and own your voice!

Email your City Commissioners to let them know they can do something to preserve our LGBT culture by requiring concessions and considering a Cultural Heritage Plan. Also email inquiries regarding LGBT life in Wilton Manors can be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Commissioner comments on new development for LGBT business concessions:

Commissioner Paul Rolli said, “It’s premature to comment since it’s coming before the commission for final review”. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Facts to confirm this article can be found in the city commission meeting minutes:

Jude Belanger is president of, former City of Wilton Manors Planning and Zoning Board Member and a current lobbyist for Wilton Manors LGBT+ Businesses.


Phone: 954-514-7095
Hours: Monday - Friday 9AM - 2PM


2520 N. Dixie Highway,
Wilton Manors, FL 33305



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