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Van Wezel back in the design plans for 'The Bayfront Sarasota'

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - The future of the Van Wezel is at stake. While the performing arts center is now back in the design plans for the redevelopment of Sarasota's bayfront, that doesn't mean it's here to stay.

Three design concept plans were released by The Bay Sarasota in April showing what the 53 acres of land surrounding the Van Wezel could look like in years to come. However, none of those designs included the Van Wezel. So the community spoke up, and project organizers listened.

The Van Wezel Foundation wants to move into a new facility, and the city seems to be on board.

"We really do need a new facility to compete with other performing arts centers," Mayor Liz Alpert said Thursday.

But the community isn't ready to let go of the iconic Van Wezel building. When the three bayfront design plans were revealed to Sarasota residents in April, 15-20% of respondents said they're concerned about the future of the Van Wezel.

Now, The Bay Sarasota has put these three brand new design plans on the table. Each design includes the Van Wezel.

"We're taking each design and what the community liked the most and heading toward one proposed master plan which we will present in June," Bill Waddill, managing director for the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization says.

The Van Wezel is owned by the city, so it's up to the city commission to decide whether the city needs a new performing arts center and whether or not the Van Wezel building will stay.

The issues with re-purposing the current structure are all based on climate change and sea level rise.

"There are areas of that building that power the building and it's infrastructure that are literally under sea level right now," city manager Tom Barwin says.

They're decisions that are still up in the air.

Meanwhile, The Bay Sarasota wants your feedback on the three new concept designs that they've created. There will be three community feedback sessions held next week.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Grand Foyer

8:30 a.m.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Grand Foyer

1:30 p.m.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Sarasota Municipal Auditorium

5:30 p.m.

As far as when a decision will be made on the Van Wezel, the city isn't quite sure. The city is saying it'll wait to see what final design The Bay Sarasota comes up with, and The Bay Sarasota is saying it'll incorporate whatever performing arts center decision the city makes into their design. There is a city commission meeting on Monday where the design team will be presenting their plans to commissioners.

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