SARASOTA — Sarasota Orchestra has agreed to buy a 32-acre undeveloped site on Fruitville Road between Cattlemen Road and Honore Avenue for a new performance venue, the organization says in a statement released today.
The land at 5701 Fruitville Road is owned by Wal-Mart Stores East LP of Bentonville, Arkansas and is valued by the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s office at $7.335 million. The parcel, immediately west of a Sam’s Club retail store owned by the same company, is zoned for planned commerce use.
Single-family housing tracts border the northern boundary of the property.
No purchase price was disclosed, though private philanthropy has already been fully raised by Sarasota Orchestra, the news release said.
“We’re honored to be part of the growing momentum to elevate the area’s artistic and musical experiences, and to play an even greater role in contributing to the cultural, economic, educational and quality of life conditions of the greater Sarasota-Manatee area,” Sarasota Orchestra President and CEO Joseph McKenna says in a prepared statement. “Our plans for this dynamic musical destination will bring to the community something it’s never had – a concert hall with outstanding acoustics that will transform the experience for patrons of our orchestra and the many local performing arts groups that will share our stage. This treasured asset will expand our region’s cultural capacity for the next century.”
Orchestra leaders, the release says, plan to conduct workshops with neighborhoods, civic leaders and arts groups in assembling a plan for the land. The orchestra says the site’s proximity to Interstate 75 will increase accessibility for patrons in Sarasota County and elsewhere.
“This is a pivotal moment in the Orchestra’s 73-year history, representing a bold, civic-minded vision about our future and our potential to enrich lives throughout the greater Sarasota area and beyond,” says Tom Ryan, chair of the Sarasota Orchestra’s board of directors. “Schedule limitations at existing venues place extraordinary burdens on cultural organizations both now and into the future. The opportunity to ease this pressure with well-designed acoustic space for music organizations will enhance and improve our region’s reputation as a premier destination for arts and culture in Florida.”
In addition to its main concert hall, the site is also expected to allow for room to construct education facilities, event and outdoor space as well.
In September, McKenna said the group had ruled out all sites within city limits and is focusing its search for a new home elsewhere in Sarasota County.
Since 2019, the orchestra had identified Payne Park as the lone viable site for a new music hall within city limits as the organization plans to relocate from its current primary venue on the bayfront. Although the city initially rejected a proposal to use seven acres in Payne Park for an orchestra facility, the City Commission reversed course last year, empowering staff to include parkland in its negotiations with McKenna.
In June 2020, McKenna said the orchestra considered Payne Park to be “off the table,” citing legal issues and questioning the city’s openness to allowing the orchestra to use a portion of the property. At the time, city officials expressed optimism the orchestra was still willing to negotiate.