Upgrade? Replace? Honor? A wide range of suggestions.
We asked for ideas on how to incorporate the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall into the various proposals for bayfront redevelopment. Here's what you had to say:
Let's keep what we still have
As a resident of Longboat Key and Sarasota for many years, I do believe the Van Wezel is a cornerstone of our culture here. I do believe it should remain in the same location that it currently holds. With the planned bayfront concepts taking place, I do believe there are some good ideas on the table to keep the Van Wezel a place of pride, culture and arts on that Bayfront.
Sarasota has seen such an influx of building and architecture in the past few years that I do believe has destroyed the core of Sarasota - that core consisting of a small town atmosphere with a lot of good values including our arts and entertainment.
Keep the Van Wezel on the waterfront. Keep our city commissioners at bay.
I do believe they still have an awful lot to learn about why the residents of this town are proud to say where they live. There has already been way too many changes to this town. Let us not destroy what we still have.
Consider other uses for the building
I am a retired architect, planner, and interior designer with over 50 years of experience, much of which dealt with master planning, including major rehabilitation projects. My comments are as follows:
A community is much richer when it preserves some architecturally good existing buildings to sit alongside or near contemporary buildings. If the original use of that existing building cannot be preserved for either functional or economic reasons, then adaptive reuse should be considered. I have read about the many functional problems discussed if Van Wezel was left as is as a performing arts center.
Do not treat this space as a fine concert hall. Spend a large sum of money to upgrade the facility for stage shows, Broadway performances, etc. improving staging, acoustics, and redoing and improving the audience seating areas and public spaces, and including into the project upgrades to deal with storm surges and flooding
Build a new world class concert hall elsewhere on the bayfront site. The result will be a much more eclectic and interesting collection of buildings. It could also could cost less than tearing down Van Wezel then building a New Van Wezel.
If the concept above is not feasible, research the adaptive reuse of the shell of Van Wezel that could complement the bayfront master plan. Possibly: A senior center, a youth center, an educational building, and possibly allowing food and beverage outlets to be on the grade level floors opening to terracing overlooking the bay. Possibly open up the roof to a major skylight.
Look at what Boston has done
I haven't seen a suggestion for an amphitheater. Consider Boston and the Esplanade highly successful and home for the Boston Pops. The Van Wezel can be kept and the amphitheater can hold larger audiences and events. Our weather is perfect for it. Imagine a Fourth of July on the bay with fireworks and a concert. Visit Boston on the fourth and see the turnout for their celebration. Please submit this and maybe we can save the Van Wezel and maybe do a little updating to it.
Let's look to the future of the bay
Thanks for the memories.
Now it’s time to move on.
Consider a 21st century version
The Van Wezel is a beloved icon in the Sarasota area, primarily for its wonderfully unique design. But it needs significant updating—more restroom capacity, up-to-date audio and sensory capabilities in the main auditorium and better-designed hallways and areas to reduce attendee congestion inside during events.
So, what to do?
How about this—build a new, better 21st century Van Wezel that replicates the look and feel of the current facility. Architects could create a dynamic, beautiful new complex, with the same purple color scheme and Frank Lloyd Wright touches.
It would have a similar look and feel to the existing facility, and retain its icon status as the center for the performing arts in this area.
Newcomer was thrilled to discover Van Wezel
When I first moved to Sarasota from New York, I was very excited to see the Van Wezel on the Bayfront.being a Frank Lloyd Wright structure! When I was young, I was fortunate enough to meet Mrs. Wright at Taliesin West. I wanted to be an architect, but instead went on to get my MFA! I know that many complain about having no middle aisle, but having attended many times, each row easily exits out the side doors. I know that the Sarasota Orchestra has acoustic issues, so perhaps another facility can be built on the Bayfront.