Van Wezel Shares Progress Report on Venue Planning

Van Wezel Shares Progress Report on Venue Planning

by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor, Your Observer

Plans for a new bayfront performing arts center include a 2,250-seat main hall, but details on cost estimates are still forthcoming.

Eighteen months ago, representatives for the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the Van Wezel Foundation announced their intention to pursue the construction of a new bayfront venue to replace the iconic facility built in 1969.

Since then, a team has been working to sharpen the vision for the new building, referred to as the Sarasota Performing Arts Center. Key details, including the design of the venue and the cost of construction, are still to be determined. Already, those involved in the planning process are optimistic about the progress they’ve made and the prospect of creating a destination both central to Sarasota’s arts scene and accessible to a broad segment of the community.

On Monday, the planning team provided an update to the City Commission. Some core details regarding the new performing arts center are unchanged from summer 2018. The plan still calls for a venue featuring a 2,250-seat main hall capable of hosting touring productions of Broadway shows, as well as a 400-seat flexible performance space. The building would also include café space, a 150-seat education theater, a lower lobby and a grand lobby outside of the main hall.

Other aspects of the proposal have been adjusted. Perhaps most significantly, the scope of the project has been downsized from two buildings into one. As a result, the size of the center has shrunk from 250,000 square feet in 2018 to 145,000 square feet.

The presentation detailed how the venue would be erected above ground level in pursuit of long-term sustainability along the waterfront. The 2018 city-adopted bayfront master plan called for the performing arts center to be raised with parking beneath the structure. Today, the planning team envisions the center raised on stilts with room for about 200 parking spaces below.

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