Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Ringling Stage Idea Hits a Snarl

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Ringling Stage Idea Hits a Snarl

Article excerpt

SARASOTA

The Ringling College of Art and Design's plan for a movie soundstage in Newtown has been met with deep skepticism by some neighbors.

The project has been pitched as a symbiotic partnership between Ringling, already one of the top 25 filmmaking schools in the nation, and a historically black, low-income neighborhood.

Economic development and job training are held out as potential benefits for Newtown.

But when it comes to selling and trading city-owned property to Ringling, some residents have expressed suspicion that it is a case of white, affluent Sarasota gobbling up a piece of Newtown at a low price.

More than 30 residents came to City Hall last week to voice opinions about the deal, ranging from wholehearted support to angry opposition. They will have another opportunity at Sarasota's Planning Board meeting on Wednesday.

The City Commission voted 3-2 last week to approve the sale to Ringling of a lot on Cocoanut Avenue and the trade of a lot on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way. But the agreement still depends on the planning board's approval of a site plan for the project.

Ringling's $7 million, 30,000- square-foot building would encompass nearly an entire square block between Cocoanut and Central avenues, on the south side of Dr. Martin Luther King Way to 25th Street.

Ringling has already acquired about 3.5 acres in a major push east into Newtown as it seeks to become one of the nation's top film schools, with a soundstage for filmmaking classes and commercial production.

To help Ringling complete its land acquisition, the city proposes to sell a parcel at 2524 Cocoanut Ave. for $20,000 and trade a lot at 1384 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way in exchange for another lot on Cocoanut Avenue.

Not everyone in Newtown agreed about the deal. Some were not convinced the neighborhood would benefit from it as proponents claimed.

Barbara Langston, president of the Amaryllis Park Neighborhood Association, said she was unhappy with a lack of specifics, especially when it came to the promise of jobs programs to accompany the soundstage project.

"Nothing is defined. Nothing is guaranteed. There's no mention of funding for job programs," Langston said. …

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