By Mary Hladky
A majority of Boca Raton council members agrees a performing arts center would be a welcome addition to the city, but they continue to debate whether a center should be part of a new downtown government campus.
More than 700 city residents asked about a performing arts center in a June public workshop, and a subsequent online survey found that 53 percent favor a center in the downtown campus, consultant Song + Associates told council members at their April 9 workshop meeting.
Deputy Mayor Scott Singer said the city should not entertain the idea of building a center that would compete with the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. Existing facilities already accommodate local cultural organizations such as the Boca Ballet Theatre and The Symphonia chamber orchestra, he said.
Other council members agreed they don’t want a facility to compete with the Kravis or Broward Center but said a center with 1,500 to 2,500 seats is needed.
“It is something we want in a conservative way. Certainly not a Kravis,” said council member Andrea O’Rourke. “But does it need to be on the government campus?”
While that issue is unresolved, council members decided on five key elements that should be included in the campus: a new city hall, police department, community center, parking garage and open space where residents can gather.
All five were top vote-getters in the Song + Associates survey.
With that direction, the consultant will start work on a master plan and preliminary cost estimates. Young Song, the consultant’s principal, said that work should be done by May or June.
“Go forth and create our vision,” Mayor Susan Haynie told Song.
Council members made no mention of a major developer’s proposal pitched to them in November, the second of two offers to create a public-private partnership.
After the city rejected The Related Group’s first idea, it returned with a plan to build a performing arts center and parking garage in the downtown campus or whatever location the city chooses. In exchange, the developer would buy the city-owned “old library” that now houses city offices and land near it east of Boca Raton Boulevard between Northwest Fourth and Second streets. The city building would be torn down to make way for about 300 luxury apartments.
The first proposal called for a 1,500-seat center, while the second said the size would be agreed upon by the city and developer.
At the time, city officials said they could not reach any agreements with Related until they were further along with planning for the downtown campus.