State grant to assist with improvements to Municipal Auditorium

$779,000 project expected to get underway this summer

The Municipal Auditorium is located near downtown Sarasota, just off Tamiami Trail. Photo courtesy City of Sarasota
The Municipal Auditorium is located near downtown Sarasota. Photo courtesy City of Sarasota

The City of Sarasota has been awarded “a significant historic preservation grant” by the State of Florida for planned capital improvements to the Municipal Auditorium “to maintain the historic integrity of this community treasure,” the city announced this week.

The auditorium is located at 801 North Tamiami Trail, near downtown Sarasota.

The city received $500,000 in the form of a Special Category Historical Preservation Grant from the Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources, a news release says. That requires a $279,000 match by the city, so the total project cost will be $779,000, the release notes.

The funds will cover the following, the release explains: restoration of 18 windows, new exterior metal doors, rehabilitation of the existing restrooms, reconstructing four flat roofs, repairing existing water damage and waterproofing the glass block on the facade.

With more than 1,720 Historic Places listed in the Florida National Register, and 50 applications having been submitted for this cycle of funding alone, the award recognizes that the Municipal Auditorium is among the top 1 percent of Florida buildings of historical significance, said Laura Wittenbauer, the City of Sarasota grants coordinator, in the release. “The funding will rehabilitate and restore this unique and celebrated gem of Sarasota, thus allowing many generations the ability to enjoy and embrace this historic treasure for years to come.”

“The required grant application was lengthy — 21 pages,” the news release points out. An additional 100 pages of supporting documents were compiled and submitted by Wittenbauer in coordination with Debbie Perez, manager of the Municipal Auditorium, the release notes.

“Applying for a grant of this magnitude is a major undertaking,” said City Manager Tom Barwin in the release. “The City Commission supported the creation of a grants coordinator staff position just over year ago, so the city could be competitive with these kinds of grant applications. That foresight is paying off,” he continued. “Securing a $500,000 grant is significant, and we’re very pleased with this successful grant-writing effort.”

The Municipal Auditorium was built in 1948. Image courtesy City of Sarasota
The Municipal Auditorium was built in 1938. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The renovations are expected to begin in July, the release adds.

Built in 1938 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Work Progress Administration initiative, the Municipal Auditorium is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the release explains. Over the years, it has hosted the Florida West Coast Symphony, the Miss Florida Pageant, high school proms and a variety of concerts, the release adds. “Now it has become a popular venue for trade shows and exhibits,” the release continues. “Throughout it all, the original Art Deco design has been maintained,” the release points out.