TAMPA - The Florida Orchestra and St. Petersburg College have announced an agreement to develop a strategic partnership involving the relocation of the orchestra's administrative office space to St. Petersburg College's downtown St. Petersburg site. Recently the orchestra received a formal invitation to become part of a new arts "hub" involving the college, the orchestra, American Stage and the Florida International Museum. As a result of careful study by the orchestra's Board of Directors and staff, administrative office space located in the heart of downtown will become the future orchestra administrative home.
At a special meeting of The Florida Orchestra Executive Committee March 17, orchestra officials voted to enter into a long-term lease for 11,000 square feet on the fourth floor of the college's downtown site at 244 Second Ave. North. The college will build-out the currently vacant interior space to suit the needs of the orchestra's year round operation.
Members of the St. Petersburg College Board of Trustees unanimously approved the lease agreement at a meeting March 20.
A valuable element of the partnership beyond the relocation was the cost to the orchestra. This space was offered to the orchestra at a rate of $1 per year for 40 years, plus an annual maintenance fee covering services such as utilities, maintenance and repair, janitorial, and other facility charges. The orchestra's current office space is located in Tampa and that lease expires at the end of the year.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this new agreement is the commitment by the orchestra and the college to develop a mutually beneficial educational partnership. The objective of developing educational programs together has relevance and great potential for both organizations.
The Florida Orchestra had originally hoped to relocate its administrative offices in a new wing at the northeast corner of the recently renovated Mahaffey Theater. Funding was secured to cover the preliminary construction estimate of $3-million and the desire of the orchestra was to establish a permanent home for the office and secure reliable rehearsal space in the theater. However, after unforeseen infrastructural complications and escalating construction costs, the final estimate for the new office space was over $4-million. Although there was extensive work dedicated to this plan by the orchestra, the architects and the City of St. Petersburg, the orchestra's Board issued a directive not to exceed the original $2-million budget.
Concert performances throughout the season will continue to be presented at the Mahaffey Theater at the Progress Energy Center for the Arts in St. Petersburg, Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, and the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center in Tampa. Booking the Mahaffey Theater, the primary rehearsal space for the orchestra, has become more challenging with the return of touring Broadway shows to the venue. The 2007/2008 Florida Orchestra season concert schedule will be announced later.