Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Fate of Museum, Library in the Air | County, City Leaders Agree on Need to Make a Decision Quickly

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Fate of Museum, Library in the Air | County, City Leaders Agree on Need to Make a Decision Quickly

Article excerpt

VENICE LIBRARY

VENICE -- Almost from the moment the old Venice library closed, the new Venice library was pitched as a possible mixed-use building, in the vein of the library Sarasota will build in partnership with Suncoast Technical College in North Port.

Venice officials quickly offered in counterpoint that the perfect partner for Sarasota's library would be a new Venice museum and archives.

But that vision may fall short, as both city and county officials fear Venice may not be able to move as quickly as Sarasota County to fund its part of the project

"We think we heard pretty clearly that people want us to move expeditiously in the planning and the design and getting started on the library," said Sarabeth Kalajian, director of libraries and historical resources for Sarasota County.

The Sarasota County Commission is poised to formally pick Sweet Sparkman Architects to design the new Venice Library at its July 12 meeting and settled on the existing Venice cultural campus as the proper location back on June 7.

But in the month since that decision, little more than cursory talks have taken place between the two governments. And those talks have been framed by the thought that

library plans must speed along, while Venice -- armed with about $800,000 left out of a $1 million donation by Julia Cousins Laning to build the museum -- may not be able to catch up.

Kalajian said once the architect is formally empowered to do the job and a contractor is picked later this month, the size and cost of the new library can be determined -- based on input from the series of community meetings hosted in Venice. She noted that even though there has been no formal contact between Sweet Sparkman and Venice officials, the architect is aware of the desire to include a museum, based on those meetings.

City Manager Ed Lavallee, who is charged with hammering out details with County Administrator Tom Harmer, said the key to their discussion is to figure out exactly what Venice's contribution can leverage.

"Is that enough money to add the space and create the shell for what would be a museum, archives component, to get it included in the original design rather than remake the plan? …

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