Sarasota inks arts center design pact with architect Renzo Piano

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Following months of negotiations with procurement staff, the Sarasota City Commission on Monday approved by a 4-1 vote an agreement with Renzo Piano Building Workshop to design the proposed Sarasota Performing Arts Center in The Bay Park. 

Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch cast the dissenting vote. 

The $36.9 million contract includes multiple design and construction milestones — also characterized as off-ramps by Director of Government Affairs Jennifer Jorgensen, over a 60-month duration with a concept design as the first design phase milestone. That design, accompanied by an estimation of the project cost, is expected to be delivered by Nov. 30. 

A draft implementation agreement between the city and the Sarasota Performing Arts Foundation is also due Nov. 30, which will be presented to the City Commission for consideration.

The SPAC is proposed as an equal share of funding between public and private sectors in partnership between the city and the Sarasota Performing Arts Foundation. The public funds will come almost entirely from revenues generated by a tax increment financing district with property taxes derived from increases in value on parcels immediately surrounding The Bay over and above the 2019 baseline. The Quay is an example of properties within the TIF district.

As the SPAC was anticipated when the TIF district was formed and documented in the interlocal agreement between the city, the county and The Bay Park Conservancy, it is eligible for TIF funding pending approval of both the city and county commissions.

The city and county fund the development of The Bay with equal shares from the TIF district revenues, totaling half of the cost. The other half comes from philanthropic sources.

With the county commission reticent to release TIF funds for the SPAC concept design work, the SPAF announced earlier this month it will fund its and the county’s share of the initial design phase as part of its 50% contribution to the entire project. The total cost of the SPAC has been estimated at $275 million, but Renzo Piano’s work will sharpen that figure.

Initially estimated at $44 million, the value of the agreement tops out at $39.6 million. Out of that total, Renzo Piano is responsible for hiring and paying an architect of record and all subcontractors necessary to complete the design services from concept to construction.

The Sarasota architecture firm of Sweet Sparkman has already been selected as the architect of record.

“Renzo Piano, as dictated in the agreement, has the responsibility to purchase or to hire an architect of record, and also various subcontractors that will be helping in the design services as well,” Jorgensen said. “This contract can span over a minimum of 60 months. There are multiple phases to this agreement. So this is not something that gets done in a year or two years so that cost of the services is spread out over the course of time and over the course of numerous phases.”

Cash flow projection
Phase Fee (Millions) % Allocation Duration
Concept design $2.214 6 4 months
Schematic design $5.166 14 6 months
Design development $9.225 25 8 months
Construction documents $11.07 30 12 months
Procurement of construction services $1.107 3 3 months
Construction administration $8.118 22 27 months
Total $36.9 100 60 months

Jorgensen pointed out five milestones, at which time either party may terminate the agreement upon completion of that phase. That first one comes up in six months. Per the contract, should the city shut down the project, it carries a 10% termination fee due to Renzo Piano, plus the cost of services rendered to that point. 

“I’m especially interested in the completion of the implementation agreement,” Trice said of the Nov. 30 deadline for that pact with the SPAF. “That would be through concept design, which is a 6% allocation of $2.214 million. So in theory, we’d be spending $2 million plus 10% of the remaining $35 million if we then terminate.”

That math was confirmed to be accurate. Trice and Mayor Liz Alpert, the city’s representatives to The Bay Park Improvement Board, encouraged their colleagues to support the design agreement.

“This is definitely something we need to move forward on. We can’t get answers to the questions if we don’t,” Alpert said. “This is a vision 11 years or more in the making and we’re at a critical point now to bring this forward.”

Meanwhile, the Purple Ribbon Committee will continue to go about its work on recommending a repurposing of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on the opposite corner of the parking lot from the proposed SPAC site, which Commissioner Erik Arroyo said has outlived its usefulness as the city’s pre-eminent performance venue.

“Hearing what the Purple Ribbon Committee has been talking about, and touring it, I can tell you that (the Van Wezel) won’t be a viable structure for much longer.”

Pointing to at least the temporary loss of the Sarasota Players and the likelihood that the Sarasota Orchestra will eventually move to its own new building on Fruitville Road near I-75, Commissioner Kyle Battie warned a new performing arts center could be next.

“We’ve lost a few arts institutions in the city and if we keep hemming and hawing about this situation, make no mistake about it, we’ll lose another one,” Battie said. “That will be the performing arts center, because somebody will come and say ‘Hey, if the city wants to keep messing around with you about this, we have the money. We’ll do it.’”

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