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Museum site is finally settled

By JUSTIN GEORGE
Published April 27, 2007


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TAMPA - While not literally carved in stone, the Tampa Museum of Art got the next best thing:

A unanimous vote by the City Council Thursday on a lease agreement that finalizes the future site of the art museum and paves the way for December ground breaking.

While Thursday's act was something of a formality, it symbolized the end of a protracted and, sometimes, contentious search for a new site.

Two years ago, financial problems killed a plan to build a $72-million art museum not far from the museum's current home at 600 N Ashley Drive.

A proposed move into the century-old federal courthouse building on Florida Avenue failed for lack of public support. Another option to move the art museum into a vacant office building on Kennedy Boulevard and Ashley Drive died over concerns of the building's price and retrofitting costs.

In August, Mayor Pam Iorio announced plans to move the museum to Curtis Hixon Park, along the Hillsborough River next to the planned Children's Museum. It was a match, and the agreement solidifies it.

"It means step one toward getting a new museum built," said Cornelia Corbett, chairwoman of the museum board of trustees. "It's like a road where you have to go down, and we've come to the first bridge, and we crossed it."

The agreement gives the museum space for $10 a year. It allows the construction of a building as large as 150,000 square feet with gift stores and an eating area. Private functions like weddings can be held there. Condominiums or other housing won't be built on top.

Other details are up to the art museum, which expects to have a design drawn up by May, Corbett said. For now, the museum plans to build a 50,000-square-foot building, 7,000 square feet larger than its current home. It would cost $20-million, Corbett said.

The city has pledged $17.5-million, plus 1-million to demolish a building now at the site. The rest would be picked up by the museum board.

Corbett said the museum eventually hopes to use all 150,000 square feet the city approved. Its foundation has launched a $25-million fundraising campaign to stockpile construction money and start an endowment. Corbett declined to disclose how much has been raised.

Justin George can be reached at 813 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

[Last modified April 27, 2007, 00:54:58]


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