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Friday, August 19, 2022

Orchestra buys Fruitville Road land for future concert hall

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

In bittersweet news for the City of Sarasota, the Sarasota Orchestra announced it is moving out of the municipal limits, east on Fruitville Road, closer to the I-75 corridor.

Sarasota Orchestra President and CEO Joseph McKenna said the proximity to I-75 will expand its regional capacity and allow the kind of outstanding acoustics that a new concert hall can provide.

The orchestra has contracted with the Wal Mart Corporation, which owns the 32-acre parcel at 5701 Fruitville Road. The plan is to construct a 1,800 seat concert hall as well as a 700 seat recital hall for chamber music and other flexible uses.

The property is valued by Sarasota County at $7,335,600. The sale price is undisclosed, but the orchestra has said that the money has already been raised.

The Sarasota City Commission over the last four years has struggled with the orchestra to find a location that met the demands and needs of the organization. Former Mayor Hagen Brody implored then-City Manager Tom Barwin to proactively work with the orchestra as well as other organizations that may contemplate heading east to the rapidly growing audience that has settled along the interstate in planned communities.

The Players Theatre announced its departure to Lakewood Ranch about five years ago, and Mote Marine sought to build its future aquarium in the City where The Bay project is underway on 53 acres surrounding the Van Wezel. Mote Marine was turned down by the City and instead negotiated with the County for a site at University Parkway and I-75.

For McKenna, the purchase marks a major milestone for an organization that has had to perform in various halls with subpar acoustics. The orchestra hopes the extra 15-minute drive beyond its current location will be a small price for its patrons from the islands to enjoy a state-of-the-art musical experience. Perhaps more importantly, is the fact that the entire corridor from Naples to Tampa is suddenly more accessible to a facility that will be located three minutes from the interstate.

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