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Architect finalists for new arts center come to town Wednesday

Three candidates to design the Sarasota Performing Arts Center will present in person to the task force and the public. The selection will follow the next day.

The conceptual drawing for The Bay master plan includes a site for a new Sarasota Performing Arts Center, shaded in purple.
The conceptual drawing for The Bay master plan includes a site for a new Sarasota Performing Arts Center, shaded in purple.
Courtesy rendering
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Pared down from its original two-day session, the Architect Selection Task Force for the planned Sarasota Performing Arts Center will host presentations from the finalist firms from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 31, in the Grand Foyer at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center.

There will only be three finalist presentations because Gehry Partners has withdrawn from the process. The final firms presenting are Foster + Partners, Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Snøhetta. The day will include in-person interviews in addition to presentations. The forum is open to the public.

On Thursday, the task force will meet at 1 p.m. in the SRQ Media Studio at City Hall for final deliberation and selection of an architect to design the SPAC. That meeting is also open to the public.

The Task Force comprises three Sarasota Performing Arts Foundation Board members — Jenne Britell, Mark Famiglio and Michele Hooper — and city appointee Mary Bensel, executive director of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

The task force was seated in November 2022 and a request for performance generated 43 submissions from prospective firms. In January 2023, request for performance responses were received from 18 qualifying firms. Six semifinalists were selected in February; site visits and reference checks were completed in April, and the finalists were selected on May 12.

Registration to attend the Wednesday session is recommended, but not required, and is available at

Following architect selection, the city and the SPAC Foundation will work toward finalizing an implementation agreement for construction of the facility, which is anticipated to cost $275 million to $300 million.



Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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