AMS Planning & Research was engaged in 2015 to assist in evaluating scenarios for the future of Van Wezel Hall. The study process included defining what success means for a performing arts hall in Sarasota over the next fifty years, understanding Van Wezel Hall’s current activity, financial drivers, market position, and competitive context, and exploring alternate future operating strategies and facility options. The study effort ran in parallel with a study being conducted by Bayfront 20:20 to reassess and create a common vision for Sarasota’s waterfront properties.
AMS’s study found that Van Wezel Hall is an essential anchor in Sarasota’s cultural arts ecosystem and the region’s brand as “Florida’s Cultural Coast®”; however, after nearly fifty years of operation, the hall, while functional, requires investment and re-design that would exceed the allowable costs under FEMA regulations for its current site. Working with the Van Wezel Foundation’s task force, AMS evaluated multiple scenarios for the future of the hall under this constraint, including limited renovation, addition of ancillary spaces in a separate structure, and full replacement of the venue. Utilizing the success factors developed in the initial phase of the study as a framework for evaluation, it was determined that replacing Van Wezel Hall would be central to remaining successful and competitive into the future.
Since completion of the initial study, the Foundation has extended AMS’s engagement to continue coordination with the City of Sarasota and design and planning partners, and to support the Foundation’s board and professional staff as they prepare to develop and implement a new performing arts center. AMS continued to provide regular consultation to Foundation leadership in developing policy, engaging the public sector, and ensuring that the design of the new facility meets organizational and community needs.