City commissioners moved forward with plotting out the future of the Northwood Centre while at the same time giving the OK for staff to begin negotiations to incorporate a performing arts proposal by a local philanthropist.
They lent unanimous support to setting out to develop the master plan for the more than 30-acre site that will be anchored by a new headquarters for the Tallahassee Police Department.
The Michael H. Sheridan and Judy W. Sheridan Center for the Arts Foundation is asking the city to donate 5 acres of land for a $9 million performance venue on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Tharpe Street.
Judy Sheridan said the foundation is launching a capital campaign to raise $3 million in funding for construction. She said the hope is to create a facility with three, 450 seat theaters, a 150-seat black box theater and multipurpose hall that is centrally located and accessible to everyone.
A number of supporters joined in a short video and spoke in City Commission chambers and indicated availability of performance space has hindered growth of some organizations and their ability to hold programming.
Sheridan said her hope was that it be accessible to anyone in need of performance and cultural space.
“This is a gift from the Sheridan Foundation and hopefully just the beginning of what the Sheridan Center can be,” she told commissioners. “The nonprofits want and Tallahassee needs this and you have the power to make it happen, now.”
Mayor John Dailey said he was an “enthusiastic supporter” of the proposal for an arts center, one that has been elusive for nearly two decades.
Exact details of the location of the performance venue have yet to be finalized and would come as the rest of the Northwood Centre is planned out, City Manager Reese Goad said.
Northwood Centre bought in 2019
In 2019, the city acquired the building in a public auction for $6.8 million after it sat nearly idle for years. Initial comments that came before a community meeting Thursday include proposals to include retail and commercial use, green spaces, bicycle connectivity, housing and small shops.
Held at the city’s Senior Center, the community meeting last week drew nearly 200 people. Another is set for March.
Wednesday's action kickstarts efforts to begin siting infrastructure like roads and electric service.
Commissioner Jeremy Matlow said it was clear from the outpouring of support, both recently and over the years as similar proposals surfaced and waned, that there was immense interest in seeing the Sheridans' offer through.
“I see supporting this project ... as something this community has supported and expressed interest in over the decades,” he said. “While we haven’t had a conversation about the Northwood Centre and what that master plan looks like, I’m comfortable saying let’s move forward.”
A separate motion by Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox to activate arts and performance programing at Smith-Williams Community Center gained unanimous support.
She said programming here has tapered off and if investment in arts was on the table, there was room to capitalize.
“Whenever there are gaps in services, and we have an opportunity when we are bringing something else online, you take it,” she said. “I don’t want to miss the opportunity.”
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Tallahassee moves forward with Northwood plans, performance venue