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For enhanced public library, LBK Foundation needs to raise $3.5M

A draft rendering shows the view from the terrace, overlooking the Town Center Green.
A draft rendering shows the view from the terrace, overlooking the Town Center Green.
Courtesy image
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Spearheaded by Jim Brown, the Longboat Key Foundation will soon begin a fundraising campaign to gather at least $3.5 million for the Sarasota County library project on the island.

Though the Longboat Key Foundation only has until the end of August to raise the money, Brown feels cautiously confident about the possibility.

The Sarasota County-led project will bring a library to the Town Center Green on Longboat Key. The county will be financially responsible for the core library, which would be about 8,780 square feet and is estimated to cost $11.1 million. 

A draft sketch of the core library.
Courtesy image

Optional enhancements — an expanded meeting room and a terrace — are also possible, but must be funded through private donations. The enhanced meeting room could accommodate up to 200 people and has a partition wall to separate into two smaller rooms if needed. The outdoor terrace overlooks the Town Center Green.

The enhancements are expected to total about $3.5 million: $2 million for the meeting space and $1.5 million for the terrace. The total square footage for the library with enhancements would be around 11,230 square feet 

That would bring the project’s estimated cost to about $14.6 million if the funds can be raised for the enhancements. 

Brown, a Longboat Key resident and former mayor, met with Town Manager Howard Tipton on the day of the June 3 commission meeting to discuss the foundation’s role in fundraising. 

At the commission meeting, Tipton and Support Services Director Carolyn Brown updated commissioners on the project, including the latest renderings that show the library with and without enhancements. 

Brown — also a former architect — said that he had some questions about the drafts, and wanted answers before putting together an official marketing package for potential donors. 

Once the county returns with the final drawings, Brown said he will be ready to officially start the fundraising process. 

Fundraising strategies

Though the campaign hasn’t kicked off yet, Brown said there’s already interest in the library project. 

He said one person already donated $100,000, and a couple of people indicated interest in naming rights. 

To have naming rights, a donor must fund 25% of the total estimated project cost. For the library with enhancements, 25% of the $14.6 million total would be about $3.65 million. 

That’s also about the same amount that Longboat Key needs to contribute to make the enhancements possible. So, if someone were to donate for naming rights, then that would automatically move the project forward with enhancements. 

“We’re hoping something like that will happen,” Brown said.

The potential terrace is shown on the back end of the rendering of the enhanced library.
Courtesy image

The Longboat Key Foundation has until the end of August to secure the extra $3.5 million for the enhanced version. By then, the county must tell the architects to move forward with either the core or enhanced version. 

One issue Brown sees is the time of year. Heading into summer and out of peak season, lots of part-time residents already left the island. Brown said he is a little worried that part of the population will have an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. 

But Brown’s strategy is simple: Get the word out in as many ways as possible. 

He said he’s hopeful donors will approach the foundation on their own but, if needed, Brown said he has a list of other foundations and individual donors that can be called to see if they have interest. 

Brown said some people would prefer donations to remain anonymous. Naming rights, though, are generally attractive to most other donors.

“But some people want their names and hopefully those people are going to come forward in this case,” Brown said.

The latest large-scale project the foundation assisted with was the Karon Family Pavilion on the Town Center Green, which officially opened in November 2023. 

When tasked with raising the $500,000 originally needed for the pavilion, Brown said an article ran in the Longboat Observer about the fundraising campaign. A day after the story ran, Brown said he had a call from someone wanting to donate for naming rights. 

But the donor couldn’t meet for a couple of days. 

The following day, Brown said he received a call from the Karon family asking the same thing. The Karons were able to meet the same day and offered the $500,000 donation, which also granted them naming rights. 

Issues with contractors and the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the project and, according to Brown, a re-bid came in at around $850,000. 

It took the Longboat Key Foundation seven days to raise the $350,000 needed, Brown said. 

This time, Brown has until the end of August, or a little more than 60 days. 

“We’re hopeful that we'll be able to raise the funds in the period of time,” Brown said. “If not, maybe we can talk to delay it a little bit.”

Possibilities for donors

On May 22, the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners approved the guidelines for name-giving rights as outlined by the Libraries and Historical Resources Department. 

“With new and expanded facilities on the horizon, such as the Longboat Key Library and County History Center, along with growing program offerings, Libraries and Historical Resources (LHR) has the opportunity to accept significant donations that would warrant recognition through a formal naming process,” the memo stated. 

In the guidelines, the LHR Department stated that a minimum of 25% of the estimated project cost is necessary for naming rights on entirely new facilities. The rights are generally granted for the life of the facility and will not be transferred if the space is demolished for a new facility. 

For areas within facilities or on the grounds, like particular rooms within the library, the LHR Department and county would consider those on a case-by-case basis. 

Additionally, naming rights are possible for programs or services offered at the library. 

As the guidelines state, “Associating a name with a program demonstrates strong commitment on the part of any donor. Funding arrangements that best serve LHR can be negotiated by the department Director and subject to approval by the County.”



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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