Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

City Could Tear Down G.WIZ | Yearly Maintenance Costs over $40,000

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

City Could Tear Down G.WIZ | Yearly Maintenance Costs over $40,000

Article excerpt

BAYFRONT 20:20

SARASOTA -- City leaders are eyeing plans to demolish the dilapidated Gulf Coast Wonder and Imagination Zone after years of inactivity and mounting maintenance costs.

Instead of sinking more than $40,000 per year into maintaining the property or hundreds of thousands to properly renovate it, razing the former children's science museum known as G.WIZ could create a park overlooking the bay until Bayfront 20:20 plans for the city-owned area emerge over the next several years, city leaders agreed this week.

Demolition costs could range from about $135,000 to $225,000, depending on whether any asbestos is found in the building or utilities need to be removed, city asset manager Rob Schanley told city commissioners this week.

"With the $40,000 we're putting in every year, if Bayfront 20:20 is not ready for the next three, four, five years, you basically can multiply that $40,000 and ... to demo it, in the long run, may be cheaper than continuing to mothball it until we have a plan from Bayfront 20:20," Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown said.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to authorize the city to pursue formal demolition bids for the building to determine the cost. Staff will report those prices and specific plans to the commission for final consideration later this fall.

"It would make sense to just tear down the building and leave that as open space for now and then when the final plans are made for Bayfront 20:20, that can be incorporated," Commissioner Liz Alpert said. "Maybe it's turned into a park, maybe it's used for something else, but it just doesn't make sense to continue to pay about $44,000 a year just to maintain it."

Built in 1976, the building originally served as the Selby Library and became the G.WIZ museum in 2000. The building has been almost totally inactive for the past three years, and the city formally terminated its lease with G.WIZ in February 2014, Schanley said.

The Hyatt Regency Sarasota uses the parking lot and the Sarasota Police Department uses it for K-9 and SWAT training, both of which have reduced the number of homeless people trying to stay in or around the building, he said. But roof leaks, antiquated air conditioning and constraints on rebuilding on the property make renovation an expensive and complicated undertaking, he added.

Combine that with the upcoming Bayfront 20:20 plans, which include the G.WIZ building and surrounding 42 acres of city-owned land along the bay, and it is likely to be cheaper and easier long term to raze the building, City Manager Tom Barwin suggested.

The commissioners agreed and suggested that retaining the parking lots and sidewalk along the waterfront could make it a nice green space until Bayfront 20:20 plans the area. The parking lot is often used by patrons of the Van Wezel, who walk across a bridge connecting the two properties. …

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