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A Vibrant Metamorphosis

The ‘new’ Straz is designed to have something for everyone

The Straz’s expansion project will do more than give the performing arts center a bold new appearance. The philosophy behind the project sets The Straz’s direction – outward.

Key concept artwork for the redesigned Straz Center campus.

The $100 million project is designed to open “the campus to the public and [make] sure that all the community is served rather than just somebody with a ticket,” said David Scher, longtime member of The Straz’s Board of Trustees and the co-chair of the Master Planning committee. The concept is “looking out rather than looking in,” Scher said.

David Scher, co-chair for the Master Planning Committee.

The goal of looking out, Scher said, is inclusion. To that end, beginning next year, the facility will undergo major expansion aimed at reaching people who may never have considered The Straz an affordable entertainment option. The patch of land that slopes down to meet the river will go away so that those strolling on the Riverwalk will be face-to-face with an outside and an adjoining stage. Morsani and Ferguson halls will share a large, common lobby that will be open to the public.

On the balcony level, overlooking the Riverwalk, will be a shaded, open-air rooftop terrace that stays open late and serves “small plates and crafted cocktails,” Scher said.

“To tie a bow on this, we’re creating a veil that goes around the building from south to north,” Scher said. The veil can be backlit or have a light show projected on it, with or without music. “It’s going to be very dramatic,” Scher said.

Well, maybe not this dramatic.

Making The Straz more welcoming to the community also will involve taking the edge off the original architectural design. The Straz was planned and built in the Brutalist style, which uses stark, industrial designs that emphasize functionality over aesthetic considerations.

Scher describes Brutalist design as “concrete, very male, very masculine, no soft lines, nothing artistic.”

A large, commissioned artwork jutting from the water will provide an easily identifiable landmark that can serve as a meeting place for visitors.

The multi-purpose event pavillion and the new bars and eateries planned for The Straz are expected to be wonderful places for our guests to enjoy.

The Straz’s current food and beverage services “are a drop in the bucket,” compared to what’s in the plans, Scher said. “This is a whole new level.”

Scher’s descriptions of the post-expansion Straz conjure an image of a performing arts center always abuzz with activity.

“We’ll have a nearly 5,000-square-foot rooftop bar,” Scher said. “You could have a huge event up there.”

Coordinating these events so that wedding-goers, theater-goers, diners and imbibers all enjoy their Straz experience will present a logistical challenge, Scher said. “That’s where scheduling, pricing and presenting all the alternatives to future clients comes in,” Scher said.

The expansion, Scher said, will be a positive step for both The Straz and the City of Tampa.

For The Straz, the expansion is “part of our metamorphosis, part of our development. It’s a natural progression.”

Scher credits The Straz’s board and management team with having “had the foresight to develop a strategic plan. Like all organizations, you just can’t sit still while technology and everything else is changing.”

Tampa’s benefit from the expansion will be the reinforcement of the fact that “this is a place where people actually want to be, and I think this is The Straz’s way of saying, ‘Hey, we want to be part of this,’” Scher said. “We have a city that continues to become more and more vibrant, and we want to be part of that.” 

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