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Tallahassee commissioners could give approval to move forward with a long-awaited performing arts center

northwood centre

A long-sought performing arts center is closer to becoming a reality. The Tallahassee City Commission is poised to take up a deal to pave the way for it. The proposed site of the center is the Northwood complex, which has recently been demolished to make way for the new headquarters of the Tallahassee Police Department.

Efforts to bring a public performing arts venue to Tallahassee have been around at least since 2004 and the costs for what has previously been proposed have often topped $100 million or more. Those were plans for a space that could accommodate 1,800-2,200 seats.

Now, local philanthropists Michael and Judy Sheridan are offering up their own money to build a more scaled-down facility that could offer multiple types of spaces. Judy Sheridan says the latest cost estimate for that is about $12 million and the Sheridan’s have about $6 million of that on hand, and ready to go. They're just waiting on the city commission's decision.

“We are hoping at the April 6th commission meeting they will say ‘Sheridans, we will agree for you to have this location," Sheridan said in a prior interview with WFSU.

Options for consideration (from the agenda):

1. Accept staff update on the demolition, design and construction activities associated with the TPD headquarters building project and the master planning process for the remainder of the Northwood site.

Pros: Allows staff to continue working on the project to meet targeted 2024/2025 construction completion and move in.

Cons: None.

2. Authorize the City Manager to negotiate an agreement with The Michael H. Sheridan and Judy W. Sheridan Center for placement of the Performing Arts Center on the Northwood site. The final agreement will be summarized in a follow-up agenda item and presented to the City Commission for consideration and approval.

Pros: Allows staff to formally explore mutually agreeable lease terms and further incorporate the proposed Performing Arts Center into the draft Northwood master plan.

Cons: None.

3. Provide alternative City Commission direction.

Pros: Allows staff to modify the project approach consistent with alternative City Commission direction.

Cons: May delay completion of a time-sensitive project.

Options 1 and 2 are part of the same proposal and, if approved, would allow the city and the Foundation to negotiate either a lease of the land or a donation.

The city has hosted several public forums—one as recently as last week-- to get resident input on what else should go into site.

Suggestions include more outdoor park and garden spaces, more safe pedestrian crossing areas, EV charging stations and more dining options. The city says the decision on the performing arts center does not come at the expense of other suggestions, and that those ideas are still on the table.

A rough timeline of PAC efforts:

  • June 2004: added an extra penny to the bed tax/tourist development tax for the construction of a PAC.
  • 2007: City Commission, County Commission and CRA amend an interlocal agreement on how to use the PAC money.
  • 2009-10: CRA is now funding the Florida Center for the Performing Arts with $600,000 per year for the FCPA to raise money for the PAC. A site near the Capitol complex is identified. Questions about the scope, size and cost of the project are raised.
  • October 2013: Still no PAC and questions begin to emerge regarding whether any money for a PAC has been raised. City and County commissions agree to steer some previously designated PAC money to the Cascades Amphitheatre project.
  • 2018: CRA announces plan to reallocate $3 million for arts proposals. TLH Arts, The Riley House, and LeMoyne Center for the arts are each awarded grants. TLH Arts is backed by many local performing arts groups because its plans include a public performance space.
  • 2021: TLH Arts struggles to find a space after its original idea to use a state government building, fall through.
  • Jan/Feb. 2022: City Commission weighs future of TLH Arts' plans as Michael and Judy Sheridan propose using their own moneyto build a smaller PAC
  • Feb. 2022: TLH Arts announces it will work with the Sheridan Foundation, gives back the $1.8 million it received from the CRA
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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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