Sept. 29 groundbreaking planned for Suncoast Technical College with new public library in North Port

Facility will include a conference center, as well

Sarabeth Kalajian, the county's director of libraries and historical resources, showed the boards this rendering on Sept. 12. Image courtesy Sarasota County
Sarabeth Kalajian, the county’s director of libraries and historical resources, showed the boards this rendering on Sept. 12. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The commencement of site excavation has been just one of the “big milestones” Sarasota County’s director of libraries and historical resources noted as she updated the County Commission and the North Port Commission this week on the progress of the Suncoast Technical College project in North Port.

The architects “have set us quite an aggressive schedule,” Sarabeth Kalajian told the boards during their joint meeting on Sept. 12 in Venice.

The county is collaborating with the City of North Port and the Sarasota County School Board, so the approximately $33-million facility will have not only classroom space but also a library and a conference center s that will be used by the public as well as the students, Kalajian pointed out. With stakes in the ground, she said, she recently stood in what will be the children’s story-time room. “It’s easier and easier to imagine the campus.”

A groundbreaking will be held at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29, Kalajian continued, noting that the school will be named in honor of Shannon Staub, a former county commissioner. Current Commissioner Christine Robinson proposed that honor during a board discussion last year, and her colleagues and then the School Board concurred.

The location of the college will be 4675 Career Lane, along the Toledo Blade Boulevard corridor in North Port.

Scott Ferguson, communications specialist with the Sarasota County Schools, told The Sarasota News Leader this week that plans call for the opening of the Suncoast Technical College (STC) in North Port in the fall of 2017. “It may well be open for the start of school in the fall [of that year],” he added in an email, but the School Board has not yet set the opening date of the 2017-18 school year.

Sarabeth Kalajian. File photo
Sarabeth Kalajian. File photo

“For that reason, plus other contingencies (such as weather during hurricane season),” he wrote, no definitive date can be provided right now.

The county also has received an additional $500,000 library construction grant from the state to assist with the project, Kalajian told the commissions on Sept. 12. The Florida Legislature earlier had provided a total of $3 million for the project, with one-third of that dedicated to the library, if the county and School Board agreed to a joint venture on the facility.

Kalajian also recognized representatives of the new Friends of the Library group, who were seated in the audience. The organization recently received its 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation from the Internal Revenue Service, Kalajian pointed out. The group has been “very assertive” in its fundraising and its drive to gain new members, she added.

With Todd Bowden, the school district’s executive director of career technical and adult education, beside her, Kalajian showed the boards renderings of the STC, noting that the grand gallery in the center of the building will be the primary entrance, but that the library will have a separate access. In terms of parking, she continued, “I think we’ve done a good job …”

North Port Commissioner Linda Yates thanked Kalajian and Bowden for all their “hard work on this. … It is going to just outshine the surrounding area,” Yates added of the STC. “The community’s looking so much forward to it.”

North Port Commissioner Linda Yates. News Leader photo
North Port Commissioner Linda Yates. News Leader photo

Robinson pointed out that the planning of the library kicked off officially during the 2014 Convocation of Governments held at the STC campus in Sarasota. She added that the mayor of the Town of Longboat Key was the first to say the opportunity for collaboration was “a no-brainer,” and then Sarasota city commissioners and Venice city commissioners followed him in voicing their support.

“It’s not easy putting these things together,” Robinson noted. “This is a true, regionally endorsed effort.”

Robinson also recognized the new Friends of the Library members, adding that they are operating through social media and email. “You’re dynamic,” she told them. “It’s going to be fun to actually watch you when you get housed in the library.”