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Board backs plan to move museum

Art museum board members Wednesday enthusiastically threw their support behind a plan to move the museum into a distinctive downtown office complex and construct another building next to it.

After the vote, the room burst into applause, and board president Cornelia Corbett thrust her fists into the air.

"All right!" she shouted.

Last week, Corbett and Mayor Pam Iorio revealed details of the plan, which includes having the city buy the complex, informally known as "the cubes," for $5.7-million and spend $10-million to turn the complex into gallery and public space.

Once the Tampa Museum of Art increases its endowment from $1.5-million to $4-million, the city will approve a new operating agreement that will release the museum from most city control.

"That's very significant," said board member Hal Flowers, who served on a museum site selection committee that included museum, city and community leaders.

Under the new agreement, the city will still contribute $1-million per year to museum operations.

Only museum board member Jan Platt voted against the plan. The proposal goes to the City Council for a vote Feb. 23.

Albert Alfonso, an architect who prepared conceptual designs for the museum project, said the most exciting part of the plan is the new building, which has a similar location to a grand vision that died last spring. He also lauded the design of the cubes and said the complex's location on a busy downtown corner is ideal.

During his presentation, he also let slip word of a proposed condo tower on the southwest corner of Ashley Drive and Kennedy Boulevard.

Platt cautioned her colleagues against the plan, raising concerns about the lack of financial support from the city for construction of a new museum building. Museum leaders will need to raise all the money for that part of the project.

"It's a huge responsibility," she said.

The city helped pay to build the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, the Florida Aquarium and the Convention Center, she said.

She also said she's worried that the proposal doesn't provide enough parking. Plans call for the city to sell its share in a 782-space parking garage adjacent to the museum site to America's Capital Partners, which owns the Rivergate Tower next to the cubes.

But interim museum director Ken Rollins said museum visitors would have access to that garage.

City Attorney David Smith told board members that two condominium towers proposed for nearby TECO parking lots will offer 380 parking spaces to the public after business hours and on weekends.

He also said the city might encourage developers of yet another proposed condo tower on the Gold Bank property across from the museum on Ashley Drive to include public parking in their project. and build a covered, elevated walkway between their tower and the museum.

Atlanta developer Novare-Intown Group bought the Gold Bank in July, but has no solid plans for the parcel.

Regardless, the city is committed to making sure the museum has adequate parking, Smith said.

"I'm just so pleased with the vote of the board of trustees," Iorio said in an interview after the meeting. "We're really working together." , and it's just going to be a very strong partnership in the future."

Alfonso said after the meeting that the proposed 50-story, 200-unit condo tower at Ashley and Kennedy is in very early stages.

"It could be that it doesn't work," Alfonso said. "The condo market is so crazy right now that we're still trying to figure out if the developer can make any profit from it. This is not a project yet."

Alfonso wouldn't reveal who the developer is. The land is owned by a limited liability company named after the site's address, 100 West Kennedy. Its registered agent, attorney E.C. Langford, could not be reached. No plans have been filed with the city

If it is built, Alfonso said, it would be an integral part of the arts district.

Times staff writer Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report. Janet Zink can be reached at (813) 226-3401 or jzink@sptimes.com.

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