Improvements to get underway soon at Municipal Auditorium in downtown Sarasota

Primary work to be restoration of windows to Art Deco style

The Municipal Auditorium is located at 801 N. Tamiami Trail in downtown Sarasota. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Thanks to a unanimous Sarasota City Commission vote this week, work will begin soon to return the look of the Municipal Auditorium’s windows to their original 1940s Art Deco style and to repair water-damaged areas of the downtown Sarasota landmark.

During their Jan. 2 regular meeting, the city commissioners approved the Guaranteed Maximum Price for the project, which is $902,567, according to a memo provided by the city’s Public Works staff. Preconstruction services cost $9,566 — an amount the board approved on June 5, 2017. A grant for historic properties will cover $500,000 of the balance, with the city having had to provide a match of $279,000 for that grant, the memo notes. Sales tax revenue will cover the remaining $114,001, the memo adds.

The city advertised a Request for Proposals for the project that required bids to be submitted by March 27, 2017. Two companies responded; during the June 2017 meeting, the City Commission approved the staff recommendation to award the bid to DM Constructors LLC of Sarasota.

The formal project description calls for the rehabilitation of 18 windows on the second floor of the auditorium’s Recreation Club to the Art Deco architectural style. Additionally, 10 exterior wooden doors will be replaced with hollow metal doors “with era appropriate hardware (including ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] push bars where applicable),” and two sets of exterior stairs, handrails and safety railings will be replaced.

The formal project summary provided with the Guaranteed Maximum Price documentation shows that those exterior stairs are wooden; the new ones will be concrete.

The design of the interior of the auditorium makes it popular for a variety of uses. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Further the project description calls for weatherizing seals “where water intrusion has occurred,” along with repairs to damaged stucco and paint — again, a result of water intrusion. The existing restrooms will be rehabilitated to ensure ADA compliance, and the flat roofs located over the office, the North Lobby, the canopy, the locker rooms and the mechanical room will be reconstructed.

A new restroom will be added on the first floor, the Request for Proposals says, and the exterior will be painted.

In response to a question from The Sarasota News Leader, Jan Thornburg, senior communications manager for the city, said in a Jan. 4 email that the improvements will be undertaken so as not to interfere with events scheduled at the Municipal Auditorium. “With that in mind,” she added, [the work is] expected to start within the next two weeks or so.”

The Request for Proposals the city issued said the anticipated time to complete the project would be 160 days.

Built in 1938, the Municipal Auditorium was designed by Chicago architects Thomas Reed Martin and Clarence A. Martin, the city’s website points out.

“The Municipal Auditorium is one of less than a handful of Art Deco gems left in Sarasota,” says Sarasota History Alive! Creative Director Lee Gaines in a history of the facility on the city’s website. “It was built by the people, for the people with funding from President Roosevelt’s Work Progress Administration program in 1937,” Gaines adds on the website. “The auditorium played a role in lifting Sarasota out of the Great Depression and continues to serve us through good times and bad as a center for both commerce and entertainment,” Gaines continues in his narrative.

During World War II, the website notes, the structure served as the Army and Navy Club for service men and women of Sarasota. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the website adds.

With a 39-foot ceiling and hardwood floors, the venue is a popular place for a wide variety of events. Among those coming up, the city website notes, are the Gem, Jewelry & Bead Show, which will be held in the auditorium Jan. 12-14; the Sarasota Arts and Antiques show, from Jan. 19 through Jan. 21; and the SRQ Market Place Vintage Fair, which is set for Jan. 27-28.