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Possible performing arts center next to amphitheater gets city backing

The longtime empty lot next to the city’s Mizner Park Amphitheater could be the new home of a performing arts center.

City council gave the organized group exploring the site an enthusiastic endorsement. But stopped short of pledging city owned land or money for the project.

“I’m glad to see the community support and you’re on the right path. This is still a very ambitious project,” Mayor Scott Singer told lead organizer Andrea Virgin at a Monday workshop. “We’re not deeding the land, but we want to put wind behind your sails.”

Here’s the resolution passed by city council Tuesday: “The city of Boca Raton expresses conceptual support for the development of a vision for a potential performing arts and cultural center located adjacent to the Mizner Park Amphitheater on property owned by the city of Boca Raton and the Community Redevelopment Agency.”

Virgin made the presentation before the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency in behalf of the newly formed Boca Raton Arts District Exploratory Corp.

“We’re supporting this organization to move forward and hopefully will hear from them in six months,” CRA chair Andrea O’Rourke said.

The group represents most of the cultural organizations in Boca. A former professional ballerina, Virgin is on the board of Boca Ballet Theatre, where she was a student. Now the founder and president of Virgin Design, she announced plans to explore a larger site at Boca Ballet’s fundraiser last year.

“There’s no reason Boca Ballet has to go to a school venue,” benefactor Arlene Herson told council Monday.

“Other towns to the west of us put up small cultural arts centers,” benefactor Marleen Forkas said. “This is a steppingstone for success,” she added after the meeting.

The new group is working with DeVos Institute of Arts Management, IBI Group Architects and the Gunster law firm to design, plan, manage and fund the project, Virgin told council.

Donors including herself have committed a half-million dollars in seed money. Forkas, Elizabeth Dudley and Edith Stein attended Monday’s session.

The original design for a new government complex included a performing arts center. Those plans are on hold, which could give this project momentum, a source said.

By Marci Shatzman


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