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Stage set for Longboat community arts center fundraising

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

If you’ve shopped at Publix on Longboat Key over the past two months, the site and sound of demolition of the former Amore Restaurant can be seen directly to the east. What will come in its place is exactly what the Town of Longboat Key has been deciding over the last two years with the Ringling College of Art & Design.

A final approval is expected in May by the Town that spells out the size and scope and programming that will be part of the future Arts, Culture and Education Center project.

The Town bought the former Amore Restourant property as well as the parcel to the north and has been working with Ringling to develop the Center with the understanding that the Town is providing the site, Ringling and the Longboat Community Foundation are raising the money for the building and the Ringling will operate and manage the facility.

The Commission throughout the last three months decided to remove the black box theatre that was originally part of the project to bring the cost down to approximately $11.3 million for the proposed build-out of the facility.

The Town also spent time earlier this month and amended its pre-construction agreement between the Town and Ringling to specify the types of programs that will be explored and finalized. These programs include numerous arts endeavors including jewelry making, wood carving, color theory, music and music appreciation, art lessons as well as creative writing, photography and foreign language study. Other programming pursuits include lifelong learning courses in art history, wills and estate planning, nutrition, organic living, and many other topics.

The current plan includes four classrooms accommodating up to 40 students each as well as a 20-seat computer lab. Two teaching studios are in the concept plan that will allow visual arts production including drawing, painting, ceramics and jewelry making. A 15-person conference room that can be used by Center staff and the Town is also planned, as well as office space for the Center’s staff.

The ACE Center will sit within the 4.8-acre site and the Town hopes it will become a hub of resident activity and connectivity.

The budget shows building costs of $6.8 million, site improvements of $1.075 million, design costs of $660,000 and furniture costs of $845,000 as well as another line item titled, “other costs” at $310,000.  The final line item is “escalation” at $1.63 million, bringing the total budget to $11,320,000.

It is anticipated in the agreement that Ringling will help develop a fundraising strategy and will work along with the Longboat Key Community Foundation to raise the funds through community donations.

While Ringling and the Community Foundation raise funds over the coming months, Town Manager Tom Harmer said the town will design an outdoor site that can be used by the public while the main facility fundraising is underway. The plan is to install water and electric and to put grass down where the Amore Restaurant used to be and create an outdoor venue where residents can gather for events, movies in a park like setting and other gatherings. That plan and design will be completed by end of October, says Harmer, and the minimal build out necessary will only take two to three months.

The changes to the planned facility and the agreement with Ringling will be discussed at the Longboat Commission workshop meeting on Monday, April 15 at 1 p.m. in Town Hall.

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