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Another collaborative effort could bring in Music Center

(ran South and East only)

Public and private organizations in St. Petersburg have a proven track record for working together to get good things done in and for the community.

Look at the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg campus, the growth of its Marine Science Department, the new U.S. Geological Survey Center located on the campus, and the Marine Science/Department of Natural Resources combined research labs now under construction. Each one resulted from combined efforts of city, state and local business organizations.

Look at the Salvador Dali Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the expanding Historical Museum and Great Explorations. Again, these St. Petersburg treasures involved collaboration among businesses, the city of St. Petersburg and the respective institutions to get them started and growing in St. Petersburg.

Look at what Eckerd College has done in the name of collaboration in creating ASPEC, the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd College. Look at the collaborative project formed by several businesses and the city aimed at bringing a Nicholas and Alexandra exhibit from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Women's Tennis Association's move to St. Petersburg resulted from a combined effort of WTA, the Stouffer Vinoy Resort and Bay Plaza. Rebuilding the Mahaffey Theater and Bayfront Arena came about through the joint efforts of the Bayfront Center Foundation and the city.

It was the demonstrated success of these kinds of local collaborations that first caught the attention of the National Music Foundation in its nationwide solicitation of proposals for a place to locate the National Music Center. The center will consist of two parts: the American Music Museum (showcasing all forms of American music, a library, production exhibits and performances) and a residential component catering to retired professional musicians. The museum "attraction" is projected to draw some 200,000 to 300,000 visitors annually.

Organizations in St. Petersburg crafted a "collaborative" response to the foundation's solicitation. Rather than proposing that the National Music Center be built as a stand-alone isolated facility, St. Petersburg suggested ways that the National Music Center could establish itself in St. Petersburg largely by creating relationships with existing local institutions, facilities and programs that are already here, and eliminate the need to duplicate them.

For example, there are opportunities for the National Music Center to explore joint programs with USF at St. Petersburg and Eckerd College _ lectures, seminars, tutoring and performances. Who knows, maybe one day there could be a National Music Academic Chair located at St. Petersburg. In addition, a "mentor program" has been suggested for discussion between the National Music Center and the Pinellas County Center for the Arts, the Gibbs High School Program for artistically talented students.

There already have been discussions between the National Music Foundation and Great Explorations in connection with a proposed exhibition about sound. The Salvador Dali, Fine Arts and Historical museums have all begun to think about how they can reinforce their own offerings through combined programs with the National Music Center.

Finally, there is a particular opportunity for collaboration between the National Music Center and Mahaffey Theater/Bayfront Arena. By not having to build its own performance facility, the National Music Center can present its various musical programs at Mahaffey/Bayfront, adding to their use as opposed to competing with them.

The National Music Center would be a "natural" addition to the Bayfront Center complex and the community. It is proposed to be built on existing inland parking lots at the south end of Bayfront Center. It would be built and operated at no cost to the city, and construction would not begin until the City Council is fully satisfied with the financial security and qualifications of the center to successfully complete the project. The city would review and approve all plans, and also negotiate to share in revenues to be generated by the project. It's a win-win solution for the National Music Center, affiliating institutions and the city of St. Petersburg.

The people of St. Petersburg have a chance to add to the cultural attractions of St. Petersburg, increase tourism and increase the use of the entertainment facilities at Bayfront Center. To take the next step toward being chosen as the location for the National Music Center requires approval by St. Petersburg voters at the Nov. 3 referendum.

Martin J. Normile is executive vice president of St. Petersburg Progress Inc.

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