Van Wezel Foundation gets $900,000 in state funding to help with architectural services for new Sarasota Performing Arts Center

Gov. DeSantis keeps the money in 2022 budget

This graphic, presented to the City Commission in March, provides details about the planning for the new Sarasota Performing Arts Center (SPAC). Image courtesy City of Sarasota

On June 2, when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the 2022 General Appropriations Act approved by the Legislature this year, he approved $990,000 to support the selection of the architect for the proposed Sarasota Performing Arts Center (SPAC), Cheryl Mendelson, CEO of the Van Wezel Foundation, pointed out in an email blast this week.

The new structure, which would be larger than the City of Sarasota’s Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, essentially would replace the “Purple Cow” as the primary venue for Broadway on Tour productions and other performances, Foundation representatives have explained. The SPAC would be part of The Bay Park on the City of Sarasota’s 53 downtown waterfront acres.

In early April, the majority of the Sarasota City Commission approved a partnership agreement with the Foundation, with a more detailed document to be provided to the commissioners next year. The city is being asked to shoulder half the expense of the SPAC, which could be in the $350-million range — or higher, as Commissioner Hagen Brody, a support of the project, has pointed out.

The architectural team will be able to provide a realistic estimate of the expense of the new facility, based on final plans for the design, Mendelson told the city commissioners.

This December 2019 image shows a concept for the new Sarasota Performing Arts Center. It was presented to the City Commission during a discussion of the proposed facility. The structure would need to be elevated because of predicted sea level rise. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

“By focusing on the resilient and sustainable design and engineering of the new performing arts center, we are ensuring it will serve as a mission-based civic and cultural icon for the community, region and state for generations to come,” she wrote of the SPAC in her June 6 email.

“On behalf of the Foundation, we extend our sincerest gratitude to Governor DeSantis for supporting the next important milestone of architect selection for the future Sarasota Performing Arts Center in the 2023 budget. We also thank State Senator Joe Gruters and State Representative Fiona McFarland, who have been champions of this transformative project,” Mendelson added.

Gruters and McFarland both are Sarasota residents.

Mendelson also noted that, because the SPAC has been planned as “a public-private investment, funding is our top priority. We are deeply grateful for the early philanthropic commitments from members of the community, and now, this state appropriation that will help us launch the promise of this legacy project.”