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Oldsmar residents make suggestions for arts center

Anyone with an opinion or a suggestion about the city's proposed arts center had a say Wednesday night. That's exactly the way supporters of the center wanted it.

Suggestions ranged from having a gift shop where artists could sell their work to having a children's museum focusing on Oldsmar and north Pinellas history to building an outdoor amphitheater.

Several people touched on the finer points, such as good acoustics and climate-control for sensitive musical instruments.

Supporters, artists, art lovers and the merely curious provided an earful.

"We want both the negative and the positive comments," said former City Council member Jerry Beverland, president of the Oldsmar Cultural Enrichment Center. "This is a fact-finding group and we want the facts found."

Oldsmar's cultural affairs department and representatives from the architectural firm Harvard, Jolly, Clees, Toppe hosted the session to begin assessing the need for and feasibility of the center.

"The options all have dollar bills attached to them," said John Toppe, executive vice president of Harvard, Jolly, Clees, Toppe. "Part of the challenge of the study is to determine what you need in Oldsmar. If you can't do it right, don't do it."

For example, having a theater with a flat floor and removable chairs sounded like a good idea _ until the audience saw what that would look like.

"It is not a theater experience," Topple said, while residents mumbled their disapproval of the concept. "It's a meeting room experience."

Resident Art Moss said the decision to build an arts and cultural center should be decided by Oldsmar voters. He added that the cost of building it should be kept in check.

"I want it . . . but I don't want my tax money elevated to where I can't live on a fixed income," Moss said. "I want to make sure the majority of the people in Oldsmar endorse this."

Beverland said the city will pursue several grants to pay for the center. He said putting the center on a referendum would be fine, once there are more details about what it will include.

"Everybody likes to be part of a success and this is a success," Beverland said. "A lot of people thought it would never happen; that we would never get as far as we did."

Those present received surveys that will be reviewed as part of the feasibility study. Another meeting will be held in November.

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