BUBIL: Another Sarasota structure in peril, this time at Payne Park


Here we go again. Another landmark is on the chopping block, although this might be one you have never seen.

It’s the auditorium at Sarasota’s Payne Park, a venerable and attractive building constructed in the early 1960s. The Herald-Tribune’s Jessie Van Berkel, one of our new group of talented young journalists, reported a few days ago that the city had budgeted $80,000 to tear it down.

Apparently, the building costs more to operate than it brings in from rental fees, and it needs a new air-conditioning system to go with roof and floor repairs. Costs range from $59,000 for immediate repairs to more than $430,000 when a new roof and sprinkler system are included.

Oh, then by all means, tear it down, especially in light of the fact that there’s no money to replace it with the $1.2 million community center called for in the Payne Park master plan.

I am puzzled by the whole thing. Replacing air-conditioning, treating for termites and fixing a leaky roof goes with the responsibility of building ownership, does it not? If we tore down every building that needed a new roof, we wouldn’t have a structure in town that is more than three decades old.

So unless the city has some crying need for the little piece of land on which the auditorium sits, which it does not, fix the roof, replace the A/C and do a better job of promoting the venue as an affordable rental option for community groups. Maybe that would make a dent in the $40,000 annual revenue shortfall.

In the meantime, the city is seeking community feedback in advance of the Oct. 1 closing date recommended by city staff.

Jane Kirschner-Tuccillo, an outspoken advocate for historic preservation, is all over that.

“The thought of the city tearing it down because it can’t afford the repairs tears my heart up,” wrote Kirschner-Tuccillo, past president of the Historical Society of Sarasota County. “Once more, I’m afraid there will be another big, empty lot sitting there for years, waiting for funding to appear for a new building.

“Is the building available to different organizations, youth groups, non-profits for events? What a treasure it is, just sitting there! Why not promote it loudly as a rentable site for small theatre groups, wedding receptions, teen dances, exhibitions, swap meets, antiques fairs and more? Use it or lose it, as they say, but the community needs to know that it’s out there and available.

“It will cost a lot less to renovate that ‘historic’ building than razing and building anew,” she wrote. “We have already lost so much history in this town. Let’s not lose this cool little gem.”

In an online comment at HeraldTribune.com, real estate appraiser Bobby Fletcher wrote, “The building was made to serve a trailer park with hundreds of units. That use is gone and its not coming back. Clear the site and improve Payne Park.”

Yes, the trailers are gone. But the city intends to replace the building eventually. In my view, clearing the site now would not improve Payne Park.

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: August 31, 2013
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