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Brandon center finds site at last

The Winthrop development will be home to the hub.

By S.I. Rosenbaum, Times Staff Writer
Published February 22, 2008


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RIVERVIEW - Arts hub. Hurricane shelter. Civic center. Prom backdrop.

The long-awaited Brandon Community Advantage Center has been many things to many people, despite not existing yet.

On Monday, the center inched closer to reality when state Rep. Trey Traviesa announced that a site had been selected. The center will be built just west of Symmes Elementary School, at the corner of Watson and Watson roads in the Winthrop development in Riverview.

"I want to walk into this place and see kids running around and moms and dads enjoying it, and folks learning," Traviesa said.

He said project leaders were approached by Winthrop developer John Sullivan, who wanted to give the project a home. Sullivan also leases a building to the St. Petersburg Times as part of the Winthrop development.

Sullivan said the idea of an arts and civic center would fit well with his development, which features neoclassical buildings and old-fashioned storefronts.

The Advantage Center itself is planned to be "Greek Revival ... with a Jeffersonian influence" and "reminiscent of the classical turn-of-the-20th-century public structures," according to Traviesa's news release.

In the project's three-year history, there has been some tension between local arts organizations, which wanted a performance and studio space, and officials like Traviesa, who sold the center as a hurricane shelter in order to snag federal funds.

But on Monday the project seemed to have reached harmony.

"I'm excited," said Kim Hall, who heads the Greater Brandon Arts Council. "I think we're on the same road."

She said there had been "a lot of talks" between project leaders and the arts council. "We're on very, very good terms," she said.

"I think they're ready to listen to us," added Anne Drewry, the arts council vice president.

Traviesa agreed.

The center "will not have achieved its vision if there's no demonstrable arts effect," he said.

While Traviesa had secured $3.4-million in funding from the state and federal government, he wouldn't say how much the project would eventually cost, saying he would let the designers and builders come up with a schedule and estimate.

"We're going to have to privately raise whatever we need to raise beyond what the government can kick in," he said.

A series of public workshops will be held March 4 through March 10 at the Barn Theatre at Winthrop, 11349 Bloomingdale Ave., to gather opinions from community members.

S.I. Rosenbaum can be reached at srosenbaum@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2442.

[Last modified February 21, 2008, 20:59:32]


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