After the City Commission discussed the potential demolition of Payne Park Auditorium this summer, pushback from some Sarasota residents caused the city to reconsider its plans for the building’s future.
Today, those residents will have a chance to voice their views in a public forum, as the city holds a community workshop about the future of the park. The meeting is scheduled to discuss the ten-year-old Payne Park master plan, but the auditorium is expected to be a focal point.
“Payne Park now is a signature urban greenspace and recreational amenity,” a city press release stated. “Before moving forward with any possible modifications to the park or its facilities, city staff would like public input.”
City residents and groups, such as the Alta Vista Neighborhood Association, have expressed an interest in preserving the auditorium. The City Commission allocated $80,000 for the auditorium’s demolition in its 2013-14 budget, but Barwin said the city received an outpouring of grassroots support to maintain the building.
In an October interview with the Sarasota Observer, Barwin said continued use of the auditorium would be expensive for the city. During a July budget workshop, it was estimated it would require a $110,000 subsidy from the city's general fund to cover the building’s maintenance costs.
Barwin said even more improvements would need to be made if the building was maintained. The air-conditioning system is barely working, he said, and much of the infrastructure would need to be replaced if the auditorium continued to be in use.
Still, he said, the city would wait to make any decisions about the building until after hearing from the public.
“At that point, if the rationale for preservation is there, the building certainly needs some improvements,” Barwin said. “We’d have to figure out how to get those costs and facilitate the improvements.”
The city press release said that tennis courts, parking, additional amenities and funding could also be discussed at Monday’s workshop. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Payne Park Auditorium.
Contact David Conway at email@example.com.