Local News

AP takes a closer look at museum proposal

AVON PARK - The city's community center needs refurbishing and its second floor is mostly unused, while the Heartland Cultural Alliance has ambitious plans for a museum/cultural center for the upstairs space in the community center.

The Community Redevelopment Agency and Heartland Cultural Alliance President Fred Leavitt recently discussed details of the proposal with a focus on who would bear the costs.

The Heartland Cultural Alliance is seeking the conversion of the second floor of the community center on Main Street into a Peter Powell Roberts museum and a cultural center.

Leavitt said there had not been enough attention on the cultural center aspect of it, but he wanted to look at the economic considerations of the proposal.

The cultural center is in need of repairs and the city is currently paying the utilities and maintenance for the facility, he said. The second-floor rental income was "negligible."

"The building is not paying for itself," Leavitt said.

The HCA proposal would increase the value of the building and the space will be generating income as the HCA will pay the city a percentage of the profits from the museum's store, he said. The museum/cultural center would draw tourists to the city and increase tax revenue.

Leavitt and the HCA have asked the city to pay for about $34,000 in renovations to the community center. The HCA wants a $1 a year lease for the second-floor and for the city to pay for utilities and maintenance.

Responding to Leavitt, CRA Chair Sharon Schuler said the city needs to spend money on upkeep of the community center, but the $800 in second-floor rentals this past year was money that went to the city.

"I think it's a great idea and a wonderful idea, but I think there needs to be more of a partnership than us spending CRA funding to renovate the building," she said. There should be an agreement where the HCA pays a monthly fee or pays the utilities or maintenance costs.

Leavitt said, "The Heartland Cultural Alliance does not have deep pockets, membership dues is basically our only source of income"

The alliance has the Peter Powell Roberts collection, but will be spending money to restore some of his paintings, he added.

Main Street CRA Advisory Board Member Gale Thomas suggested "trying it out" with a two-year agreement between the city and the HCA.

The city should not miss this opportunity because it will go somewhere else, she said.

CRA Board Member Garrett Anderson supported the two-year agreement suggestion.

CRA Board Member Parke Sutherland said he supported the project and wanted to know how much of the $34,000 in proposed renovations the city would have to spend anyway for the upkeep of the community center.

The CRA took no formal action on the museum proposal, but asked for more information on the proposed renovation costs and suggested that city staff and the HCA look into developing a lease agreement.