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Tampa’s Straz Center expansion is getting closer

Bill DeYoung



The main feature of the David A. Straz Center's proposed expansion, on the western facade, is a large "undulating veil." Renderings provided.

There are six theaters inside Tampa’s David A. Straz Center for the Performing Arts, the second largest such complex in the Southeastern United States. The theater venues themselves won’t be affected by an in-the-works expansion project, although the planned changes do include an aesthetic facelift to the western edge – the side of the 36-year-old Straz Center campus that faces the Hillsborough River, and abuts Tampa’s scenic Riverwalk. The valet parking drop-off area will also receive an upgrade.

The $80 million project mostly concerns the Straz Center’s education and outreach programs, including the in-house Pallavi Patel Performing Arts Conservatory, added in 2004.

Greg Holland

“Tampa, and Tampa Bay, has been recognized for years as one of the top five fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country,” said Straz Center President and CEO Greg Holland. “Which is exciting. But in order to match the growth of the community, and provide services as required – and as necessary, frankly – we have to grow our spaces to accommodate needs. Or the city’s going to outgrow the Straz Center.”

Two new additions will rise in the northwestern area of the campus. Plans include an expanded lobby for Carol Morsani Hall, the largest of the theater auditoriums, a new café, bar and fine dining space. On the second floor, a Donor Club and an expansion of the Patel Conservatory. There will also be a rooftop terrace.

The second building will include a full kitchen, plus two floors of additional spaces for education and outreach.

“So we’re adding about 30 percent more space to the Patel Conservatory,” Holland said. “And with fine dining moving into this new ground floor space, it opens up the Maestro’s Restaurant space, which we’ll turn into education space, and space that’s designated for Opera Tampa – and for opera and music education.”

Opera Tampa is the Straz Center’s in-house professional opera company, which presents several major productions each season.

“And a sizeable piece of Opera Tampa is our in-school and community outreach programs,” according to Holland. “Students and others come on campus for demonstrations and performances in classrooms and rehearsal halls. And this will create a new space for us to do that. It’ll create a space for us to rehearse the mainstage operas.”

The proposed “Riverwalk Terrace.”

The plans were already in motion when Holland took over as the Straz Center’s chief executive in 2022, following the retirement of longtime CEO Judith Lisi. The building is owned by the City of Tampa.

Because of escalating costs, supply chain issues and other factors, the Community Redevelopment Agency, which is contributing $25 million, has extended the deadline for the center’s final proposal to Dec. 1, 2024.

Holland believes they will submit much earlier than that.

The total ask, $80 million (plus an additional $20 million for the endowment) will come from the CRA, city and state, along with private and corporate donations.

“As Tampa has grown, the needs for performing arts, education and community services have grown,” Holland said. “The Straz Center education programs are one of the primary arts education programs in Hillsborough County schools. We send artists and educators into the schools to do classes during the year. So we have a much larger staff.

“One of the things we didn’t have when the Patel Conservatory opened was our Military Veterans program. Now that we have that, and our Arts and Healing programs, those need spaces. And our summer education program, our summer camps, has probably been the biggest area of growth. So we use every available space, including the theaters and the lobbies.”

All six theaters are in near-constant use with large-scale productions. So this upgrade, he believes, will help ease the Straz Center’s (welcome) growing pains.

“The real focus of this,” Holland explained, “is to create new spaces, and reclaim spaces, to expand our ability to provide classes, education and outreach.”














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1 Comment

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    Tom Keyser

    December 20, 2023at4:27 pm

    What the Straz needs, first and foremost, is more bathrooms.

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