Baker Barrios to present concepts for Kissimmee downtown arts center

Kissimmee Commissioners have scheduled a special workshop on June 26 for architects from Baker Barrios to present conceptual plans for converting the downtown civic center into a performing arts venue.

Wayne Dunkelberger, the firm's creative director, told GrowthSpotter the proposed Master Plan would combine a retrofit of the existing 42,000-square-foot building with a newly constructed performance hall on the site.

"There's a surface lot between the library and the building -- we'd put it there," Dunkelberger said. "The parking lot is the perfect place for the theater because it's far enough away from SunRail that it won't be affected by noise, and it connects the library."

The new 400-space parking garage at the SunRail station can accommodate the parking needs for the center, especially since the trains typically don't run in the evenings, he said. Another parking garage at Toho Square is just a block away.

The initial concept would call for a 600-seat theater with a stage and orchestra pit. The gymnasium would be converted to a "black box" theater with flexible seating that could accommodate concerts and other events, and the exterior would get a total refresh to match the new construction. 

"They'll have to evaluate budget-wise what they can afford," Dunkelberger said. "It's so conceptual. Really, what the city wanted to do was to see what could fit on the site." 

The basketball and other fitness activities would have to be relocated to a new gymnasium/field house at the Lancaster Ranch Park on John Young Parkway.

City Commissioners tasked Baker Barrios earlier this year, under the firm's continuing service contract, with developing the MP, elevations and renderings. That followed a 2017 feasibility study by Convention, Sports & Leisure International (CSL) to evaluate the proposal.

CSL Principal John Kaatz told commissioners last summer it could cost anywhere from $20 million to $50 million to convert the civic center into an arts venue, and that the city's demographics wouldn't necessarily support a high-end, dedicated performing arts center. 

The City of Kissimmee used special purpose sales tax revenue to build the civic center in 1994 -- then for the bargain price of $2.7 million. Dunkelberger said the meeting and event spaces could be updated, and the repurposed gym could seat up to 800.  

"It’s a good shell because it’s high and it will do all the things you want it to do," Dunkelberger said. "There's no sense in tearing it down."

Baker Barrios is also the lead architect for the city's downtown redevelopment of Toho Square on Lakeview Avenue. The city completed its new parking garage last year, and that will be wrapped with apartments and book-ended with brownstone-style townhomes.

Dunkelberger said his team is fast-tracking the designs for a 260-unit apartment complex and hotel across from Lakeview Park. "We're cranking out floorplans and elevations," he said.

Osceola commissioners last year tentatively earmarked $10 million of Tourist Development Tax reserves to help finance the civic center renovation. And Osceola Arts, which is led by County Commissioner Brandon Arrington, has projected it could raise another $5 million to $7 million if it takes over management of the facility.  

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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