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Joining Palm Coast, County Administration Disputes Arts Foundation’s Conference Center

| September 20, 2010

palm coast arts foundation conference center

But can they fill them? (© FlaglerLive)

For every step forward the Palm Coast Arts Foundation takes with its ambitious plan to build a conference and arts center, it is lassoed back to more pedestrian realities by competing forces the foundation can’t control.

The arts group will be struggling against one more lasso at tonight’s County Commission meeting. The county administration is recommending against funding so much as a $50,000 marketing study for the foundation’s proposed conference center. Shooting down that proposal essentially demolishes the foundation’s best chance at getting its conference center going. That in itself is one of the main reasons the city and the county are leery of the foundation’s plans: if the foundation can’t rely on itself as the principal force behind the project, especially when it entails so much as a marketing study, public money shouldn’t be put at risk for its sake.

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The Tourist Development Council in July approved spending up to $50,000 on such a study, and forwarded its recommendation to the county commission for approval. The county administration, however, is raising “serious concerns relative to the value of a study at this time to either the Tourist Development Council or the Board of County Commissioners.” The administration says conference-center needs for now can be met by existing facilities, though aside from the Hammock Beach Club, there is no conference-center facility in the county. The administration says the proposed marketing study’s parameters are too vague and project too far into the future (20 to 30 years) to have much validity. The administration is on firmer ground in that regard, though county and city administrations in Palm Coast and Flagler County  routinely rely on 20 to 30 year projections by developers when approving their plans.

There’s little question that the kind of plan the foundation is proposing is not feasible at the moment. That plan initially entailed a huge, $30 million, three-stage arts and conference center seating up to 2,200, plus art galleries, classrooms, a gift shop and a sculpture garden. It sounds (and would be) grand. But it’s not as if Palm Coast or Flagler County are able or willing to support what arts venture there are now. The Flagler Auditorium struggles to fill its 1,000 seats even when it draws national acts. Two art galleries have opened at City Walk—the Hollingsworth Gallery and the Flagler County Art League’s—but their art works aren’t flying off the walls.

So the arts foundation scaled back its original vision to just a conference center as a start. It presented that plan to the Tourist Development Council, which has public money to underwrite capital projects that would draw visitors. The council was divided, with skeptics raising several issues—including the foundation’s own money issues: it’s been unable to show that it can raise significant amounts. Pam Walker, who headed the council’s conference center committee, was not opposed to the concept, but questioned the foundation’s reliability and business plan. So did others, among them Mary DiStefano, the Palm Coast City Council representative on the tourism council.

There were other issues, such as the foundation using a Daytona State College marketing study in ways that the college had not approved. By the time the tourism council had agreed to send its recommendation for a study to the county commission, the proposal was virtually divorced from the arts foundation’s own.

Sam Perkovich, the Palm Coast Arts Foundation president, in late June had asked Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon to sign a letter of intent enabling the foundation to lease land in Town Center. That idea rears back to the foundation’s original, and unhappy, association with the city, in the middle of the last decade, when the city agreed to give it land in Town Center as long as strict fund-raising milestones were reached. The milestones were never met. The agreement was dissolved. The city hasn’t been keen to work with the arts foundation again, not even under the foundation’s new direction.

“I consider a banquet and event center a substantial change from what council as (sic.) authorized in the past on city property in the Town Center area,” Landon wrote in mid-July. “As such, I do not plan to sign your proposed letter-of-intent without council consideration and direction. I also believe it premature for council to consider this concept as there appears to be too many issues and questions being addressed by other entities. As such, I do not plan to address this request until we find out if the latest proposal seriously moves forward.”

The commission meeting takes place at the Government Services Building in Bunnell at 5 p.m.

15 Responses for “Joining Palm Coast, County Administration Disputes Arts Foundation’s Conference Center”

  1. Kip Durocher says:

    “The Tourist Development Council in July approved spending up to $50,000.” The TDC is an Enterprise Flagler ~ light ~ with no food value. Both agencies are not needed and are not worth one penny of tax money. These two, “advisory groups”, (snicker-snicker), only advise in one direction, spray tax money around to our buddies. Maybe we could put the conference and arts center in the empty space at the airport. We have the room since the cake did not rise!!

  2. Jim Guines says:

    I still believe in a lady named Sam,

  3. JR says:

    When will the county figure out that the “if build it we will come,” mentality, of Enterprise Flagler and the Tourist Development Council, is stupid. I am a fan of business, as apposed the FlaglerLives big government stance, but we both agree that the Flagler governments cannot screw these things up any more than they have. If a conference center ever had a chance at being a profitable venture, a developer would have already built one. As it is, the conference center in Jacksonville sees very little use. What, beyond the beach, is a draw for Flagler? The Ocean Center in Daytona has enough trouble itself. Orlando is less than 100 miles away. With all of the attractions there, where would anyone prefer to be. If the County and city(s) wanted to get out of the way of businesses, instead of Enterprise Flagler raising the tax rate (or, trying to), reduce the tax rate by .5, and eliminate Enterprise Flagler; yes, I know that the difference in the Enterprise Flagler budget and what the County takes in on the .5 is big, but the economic advantage of lower taxes will draw business from neighboring county’s over 10 years would probable be better than the black-hole that Enterprise Flagler is.

  4. barb says:

    who needs art-when theres food

  5. Jerry M says:

    A 5,000 seat, amphitheater style facilty could be constructed for about $5M. This type of facility would actually be capable of attracting national music acts that people actually want to see and are willing to spend good money on.

  6. Marie C says:

    No way Jose. No public dollars should to go toward this venture. If there were a chance in hades an event center could succeed here right now Hilton or Marriott would build one with a hotel attached.

    I can see it now, the event center we pay for will end up being a pricey storm shelter with marble floors and brass faucets in the bathrooms.

    Another collossal waste of money.

  7. D. LaPadula says:

    And who would come to this banquet center. Many of Daytonas facilities are starving so why would Palm Coast do any better. My god how much is this city going to squander for something that will, at best, be under utilized. As far as gift shops and art galleries I am sure there is space available for this purpose.

  8. Tim O says:

    The Arts Foundation should seek private funding.
    The the idea has merit and will be profitable, investors will be found. Leave the tax money alone.

  9. Sam Perkovich says:

    As President of PCAF I’d like to make clear that we did NOT approach TDC or the conference committee, they approached us. We felt we were NOT ready to present our project, our upcoming virtual tour or our business plan, but we were encouraged by the chair of that committee to present our projected plans prematurely.
    We plan to embark on a fund raising campaign in the near future, and again bring the Jacksonville Symphony to Town Center Park on May 1, 2011 for Picnic and Pops. We continue to support the arts groups in our County, including the Flagler Youth Orchestra who has purchased 5 instruments from funds supplied by PCAF. Sam Perkovich

  10. Kip Durocher says:

    Very interesting, to say the least, “we were encouraged by the chair of that committee to present our projected plans prematurely.” The TDC chair would be Milissa “Never saw a tax dollar I did not want to spend” Holland. Is this the person who approached you Ms. Perkovich? Ms. Holland, are you going out into the community seeking things to throw tax money at?

  11. poseiden says:

    tax payers should not be paying for art

    we should be paying for obamas health care plan

  12. Sam Perkovich says:

    No it was not Milissa Holland it was the chair of the conference committee.

  13. Paul Kelly says:

    Does anyone remember that expensive “White Elephant” in Daytona Beach, on the banks of the river, Halifax? I’m sure they had grand plans for that Center to be big a money maker! They ended up giving it away for “peanuts”, ironically, to the college! Hey, it’s 2010, not 2004. We no longer have the money for any luxury items like this proposed “Conference Center”, especially if you can’t assure us “If we build it, they will come”!

  14. Michael Murphy says:

    Why not spend the money, These fools spent $500.000 of our tax dollars on a privately owned marina at marine land.Funny thing is there still are no boats there .They want to spend $150.000 on fields because they had a lacrosse game there.Wake up people these fools (Holland,Heiser) should be voted out.They are like two teenage girls on a shopping spree with our money.Lastly lets not forget the pay raises the TDC thinks they deserve,ask yourself what exactly did they, the TDC really do for tourism this year, not much.
    “My Daily Rant”

  15. palmcoaster says:

    Is Holland as a TDC Board chair aware that we are in an economic crisis? That she enjoys an economic comfortable situation doesn’t mean the local tax payers do. The FPCAF with Sam now, should continuo offering the Jacksonville Orchestra Concerts, if financially self sufficient and leave their planned conference center for when the economy improves and then more private funding will be at hand. The TDC Board with Holland at the head is just happily sprinkling only to few elite organizations the 4% bed tax collected by “all hotels, and lodging businesses” in this county and benefiting the few well connected ones with the inner circle leaving most out of the beneficial funding. We don’t need right now another White Elephant, or if you want to call it better monument to the few of you in control, for posterity. We already have enough of those in Rte 100 and still paying for it. Those 50,000 requested will be put to a better use, properly promoting all the hotels and our local amenities that we have in this county in the frozen belt”up North” for tourism.
    Holland hits the pocket of TDC for some of her buddies like Peggy Hiser FCCOC and for what?. We need more self supporting events like the beautiful one attended by thousands in Town Center yesterday. Can city inform us if this succesful event was self funded by booths space sold? In contrast 880,000 TDC grant wasted to Peggy Hiser and 150,000 for Holland’s Marineland private marina. Maybe the La Crosse fields in the schools grounds improvement, are justified as there were several thousand beds sold in our local hotels (hope most of them) for the last event held here during a whole week, as I read somewhere. What about using some self control in the way they waste our hard earned tax dollars?
    We need more sports competitions that, except Golf at Ginns, get no sympathy or support from Holland and most in the TDC Board. Physical Fitness sports events are beneficial for our community. We need change around here.

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