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Longboat Key Arts Center deal extended with Ringling College

“The town would be responsible for the site development and Ringling would be responsible for the building,” said assistant town manager Mike Hein.

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  • | 8:33 a.m. December 13, 2016
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The Longboat Key Center for Arts, Culture and Education ultimately will come to be, but exactly when remains a question.

A memorandum of understanding with Ringling College of Art & Design was extended Monday to February at a Longboat Key Town Commission workshop.

“I hope it doesn’t take two more years to break ground on this project,” said Commissioner Armando Linde.

But Ringling officials are optimistic.

“We’re very excited about this opportunity to work with the town on this unique cultural center,” said Ringling College President Larry Thompson. “The nickname is the ACE Center, and it will be an ace.”

The original deal, which called for the town to do site analysis to identify any constrains or limitations on potential development, is complete. The renewed agreement will have Ringling conduct an architectural program to identify functions and costs.

“Conceptually, the town would be responsible for the site development and Ringling would be responsible for the building,” said Assistant Town Manager Mike Hein.

The Longboat Key Foundation, an advisory board created in 2012 and affiliated with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, projects ACE will serve as the cultural town center with classes for lifelong learning, small stage productions, lectures, concerts and intellectual discussions.

A pre-construction agreement still has to be hammered out to establish costs and ongoing roles going forward with operating the site. Hein projected it will take a year to finalize an agreement with estimated project costs.

Former Mayor Jim Brown, a co-founder of the Longboat Key Foundation, started working on this project in 2002 as a member of the former Community Center Advisory Committee.

“I’ve been a thorn in the side of Ringling for the last year or so because I thought they were dragging their feet,” Brown said. “It wasn’t their fault necessarily. I believe this is something the community needs. I hope the commission will continue to support this.”

The Longboat Key Town Commission voted unanimously Monday to endorse continuation of negotiations. The pre-construction agreement will establish:

• Design and development responsibilities.

• A timeline for Ringling to secure professional design and programming services.

• Estimated project costs.

• A timeline for submitting preliminary design and programming plan to the town.

• A process for securing necessary land use approvals.

• Ownership and maintenance roles.

No mater the project’s final cost, estimated at $10 million, Brown said taxpayer money is not expected to be used.

“The goal is to raise all the funding necessary philanthropically,” Brown said.