The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs just awarded the Flagler Auditorium a $500,000 matching grant that may be the first of five such grants over the next four years–if the district is willing to match them dollar for dollar. The total would result in a $5 million capital revamp of the auditorium and the performing arts building to which it is attached, benefiting the concert hall and Flagler Palm Coast High School’s students.
For all that to work, the Flagler County School Board had to give its approving nod that as a first step, the district would hire an architect or an engineer, as a consultant, to lay out a plan on how best to improve the facilities, “and give us a ballpark dollar amount which would help us set the goal of what we need tom do for a capital campaign, which we know is probably not going to happen next year,” Superintendent Jacob Oliva said. “But if we can have a five-year plan that the board supports and I think the support of the auditorium governing board and our community, it would help set a target.”
The auditorium wants to expand its lobby and improve its performance areas, and the district wants to expand the band room and chorus room in FPC’s 400 Building, just behind the auditorium. “Our arts programs are going to continue to grow,” Oliva said. “We have no reason to believe that they’re not, and we need to make sure that we have the capacity and the space for that to continue to happen.”
The auditorium’s governing board has already approved the plan. The board approved it Tuesday evening.
“If we have access to grant dollars, absolutely,” Colleen Conklin, who chairs the school board, said. “My only concern would be that we get into something that we can’t, once we get architectural plans, that we couldn’t absolutely afford to build. But I guess we can scale those plans back down or evaluate that as the process moves forward.”
“We’ll never know unless we take the first step,” Auditorium Director Lisa McDevitt said. “Hopefully for me it’s a reality.”
A new lobby three times its present size would be ready by spring 2018.
The $500,000 grant aside, Tuesday’s developments were not a surprise. Last November the school board and the auditorium board held their first joint meeting in over a decade to start planning for such developments. Both boards agreed that the auditorium was due for a revamp. It’s also no small thing that the Palm Coast Arts Foundation’s plans for a performing arts center of its own, now that the foundation has its own home and a growing fund-raising base, has likely spurred the auditorium to make big plans of its own.
Last fall the auditorium applied for the state grant to start the second phase of its renovations. Three phases are planned. The first phase included replacing the stafe, replacing all indoor lighting, redesigning the parking lot, repairing the roof and adding an electronic marquee, the latter enabled by a grant from the Tourist Development Council.
The second phase, which the auditorium considers its “most ambitious,” according to the grant, is to expand the lobby and improve the backstage area with better dressing rooms and restrooms. The lobby currently holds 150 people. The auditorium wants a space that holds 500. It also wants the space to be rented for various functions (and to bring in additional money), or to be used for smaller performances such as recitals or chamber concerts. It wants its offices expanded. It wants to update its technical equipment. and it wants better outdoor lighting in the parking lot. All that would be completed by April 2018.
The match for the first grant was to be 25 percent in cash, which McDevitt said was already in hand through the auditorium board. The rest was matched retroactively by previous spending from the district’s capital funds. The state grant allows such retroactive matching, going back five years. But if the district wants to match subsequent grants, it will have to have the board’s approval to rearrange its capital plan, as it will affect spending on other school projects. The board said Tuesday it was willing to do that when the time comes, starting with another joint meeting with the auditorium board soon.
But the auditorium will not rely exclusively either on district matching dollars or the state grants. It intends to launch a capital campaign in the county.
“We’re there, we’re ion pretty good shape,” Oliva said, “but where we’re examining now is where we can be for next year for matching the capital dollars, and my understanding is we can apply for this grant for up to five years.”
“We need to invest in what we have, it’s worked great for 25 years, and it’s going to keep working,” McDevitt said.
“I don’t see any reason why we would not accept,” board member Trevor Tucker said. The board did not vote on the issue, as the presentation was made during a workshop. Nor was there anything to vote on. That will happen when the board needs to rearrange its capital plan.