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Woman would donate land for cultural center

Fine arts council representatives appreciate the offer but say it comes too late and that the location is not ideal. The center is planned for Spring Hill.

By DAN DeWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 12, 2001


BROOKSVILLE -- The land surrounding Rogers' Christmas House Village has large oaks, azaleas and access to U.S. 41 as well as E Jefferson Street.

Margaret Ghiotto, the owner of the Christmas House and this parcel of land, thought it would be the ideal location for the Nimmagadda Cultural Center, which is planned for Spring Hill.

She has tried to give it to the Hernando County Fine Arts Council, the organization building the center. It has already declined, though she hopes it will reconsider.

"There's one thing about this land: It's free," she said on Tuesday.

Though fine arts council representatives said they appreciate the offer -- the value of which would exceed any other individual donation -- there are two problems with it: the timing and the location, which is too far from most of the other donors to the center and the population base that will support it.

"It's a beautiful piece of land, and it was wonderful of her to offer," said Barbara Manuel, chairwoman of the council, "but we'd just gone too far with the other site."

"It's just too late," said Vince Vanni, a consultant for the project. The architect has already drawn plans for building the facility at a 5-acre parcel near the Little Red Schoolhouse in southwest Spring Hill. The Spring Hill Civic Association has agreed to lease the property at a nominal fee, Vanni said, and the council has requested that it be donated so the value of the land could be put up to win matching grants.

Most of the donors are from the west side of Hernando and were told the center would be located there, including the family of the late Dr. Sriramamurthy Nimmagadda, which gave $50,000.

Telling them that their money would instead be used for a facility in Brooksville, Vanni said, "would have created such turmoil. This would have opened such a Pandora's box."

The Spring Hill location is not only in Hernando County's population center, Vanni said, but is near enough to Pasco County to draw audience members and donors from there.

"This is a matter of Pasco and Hernando," Vanni said. "It's an ideal location."

One early plan for the center was to build it on the Brooksville campus of Pasco-Hernando Community College. That was dismissed partly because Spring Hill residents were not willing to drive to Brooksville for events.

But Mrs. Ghiotto said that for the size of the facility, which will include a concert hall, gallery, classrooms and a garden, the current site will be too small.

The parcel she is offering is larger, she said.

She also thinks it's prettier, though she admits to being biased.

"I love Brooksville, and I think everything should be here," she said.

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