Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The process continues

The latest information from Sarasota:

From the Pelican Press:

Group wins reprieve for Rudolph buildin
By Rachel Brown Hackney

The request was for six months, the staff proposed six weeks, but in the end, the Sarasota County School Board voted 4-1 on March 4 to give the Sarasota Architectural Foundation a three-month extension to get plans and funds in place to save the historic Paul Rudolph structure at Riverview High School.

The lone "No" vote came from board member Frank Kovach, who has made his position known on numerous occasions that he would prefer to see the building razed on the campus where new facilities are scheduled to open for the 2009-2010 school year.

Kovach said the board had given the Revive Rudolph's Riverview group and SAF a year since a design charrette organized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation was held in March 2007 to find a way to save the 1958 Rudolph building, "and I have not seen any kind of forward motion."

However, board member Carol Todd pointed to a presentation earlier in the evening about the plans for transforming the original 1920s Sarasota High School building into a museum of modern and contemporary art along with studios for Ringling College of Art and Design students."

If anyone had told me when I voted [to allow the museum plans to go forward] that they would be where they are today," Todd said, she would not have believed them. "I am awed by where they are today."

Further, Todd said, "How do you ask people for millions of dollars if you don't have [a firm] commitment" from the school board. It would be a good faith effort, she added, for the board to give the SAF the full six-month extension.

Board member Shirley Brown agreed that it would be hard for the SAF to raise money without a commitment from the board. Still, she said she felt the board first needs to see where the group was with its efforts to save the structure.

"Does this plan have dollars in it that make sense?" When Vice Chairman Caroline Zucker asked whether a three-month extension would have any negative impact on the construction of the new school, Chief Operating Officer Scott Lempe responded that it would not. However, he said, "Six months makes me real nervous."

Kovach also pointed out that the Music Quadrangle plan for the building, envisioned by New York City architect Diane Lewis, was not the type of future the board had foreseen when it approved an April 17, 2007, resolution with the SAF. "

They seem to want to use our resources.""All I hear is 'we,' 'they,' 'we,' 'they,' " Todd responded. "Are we going to partner with them or are we going to parcel out the barrels so they will never be successful?"

Superintendent Gary Norris told the board an SAF representative had phoned him to say that district staff "had potentially delayed them by six weeks" in working on their site plans and fundraising. " I told him immediately I wanted to make it right." That was why staff had suggested the six-week extension, he added.

Chairman Kathy Kleinlein noted that Lewis' design entails moving athletic fields and reconfiguring other parts of the new campus - something that was not a factor with the historic SHS building. However, she added, "I like the idea of the Music Quadrangle. ... I would be in favor of giving them three months more. I think that's more than fair."

After the vote, SAF Chairman Les Fishman told the Pelican Press, "Three months is better than nothing." As Todd had pointed out, he continued, it was difficult to raise funds without a commitment from the board.Further, he said that, in light of the economic downturn, it would be very difficult in the Sarasota area, or even in the United States, to raise all the money needed to save the building. However, with Rudolph fans all over the world, he said, the SAF, could seek international support.

Mark Smith of Siesta Key, immediate past president of the Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects, was delighted on March 5 to hear about the board's vote. " That's excellent. That's much, much better."

A civil engineer with the WilsonMiller firm in Naples is working with SAF to oversee the necessary site work to enable Lewis' plan to blend with the new Riverview, he said. The first round of fundraising for the Lewis plan will cover that consultant's expenses, he added."It's such a worthwhile project," he said of the Music Quadrangle. "I'm glad that the school board's giving it every opportunity to succeed."
Earlier articles in the Pelican Press describing the process are listed below:

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