Multi-million Straz Center renovation plan revealed

- A multi-million dollar project is taking center stage at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

Plans for a massive renovation, including an expansion of the center towards the waterfront, were unveiled on Tuesday.

The project would create a grand terrace that flows to the Hillsborough River, allowing people along the Riverwalk to stop in and purchase beverages without buying a ticket to a show.

“It’s going to be packed all the time, with or without a show. That’s what we’re hoping,” said Judith Lisi, president of the Straz Center. “You’re not going to need a ticket to come here. You’re just going to need yourself and some great friends, and come and hang.”

Straz officials said growing activity along the waterfront, including the completed Riverwalk and the newly launched Pirate Water Taxi service, has brought large crowds to their part of the city. They wanted to find a way to engage young people who are exploring the area.

“We wanted to take a look at how we could make this sort of the living room of the community; A place for people to have a sense of pride, to just come down and gather,” said Lisi.

Renovations will include a multi-purpose events center with food, beverages and artistic programing, and a more modern stairwell in the Silbiger Lobby in Morsani Hall, which would create an open area for people to stand, among several other changes.

“This performing arts center was designed 35 years ago. So many things have happened in architecture that are so exciting and futuristic,” said Lisi.

The project is expected to cost between $65 and $100 million. Straz officials are pursuing a feasibility study to determine funding sources.

They are hoping to complete renovations in five to six years.

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