Palm Coast Council Hears Arts Center Plans

Palm Coast’s Town Center area is poised to become the focal point of the county, according to a city consultant. Adding a multi-purpose events center would make it a cultural home for residents and visitors alike.

“It is the living room of Palm Coast and Flagler County,” said Charles Johnson from Chicago-based Johnson Consulting at a February City Council meeting. The proposed facility would not only serve residents, but attract economic development as well, he said.

Johnson reviewed his company’s report, covering a market overview, the opportunities an events center would bring and some strategic recommendations for moving the project forward.

“There is live entertainment and meeting space competition in the region, but there is still local demand not being met,” Johnson said. “If you can build the right product and build it and finance it effectively, it can really complement all other venues that you have.”

The study calls for a 75,000-square foot facility, which includes a 2,000-seat auditorium with additional meeting space, a lobby area and a full-service kitchen. The center is projected to hold 230 events annually by year five with a mixture of arts and culture events and conferences.

In addition to the eight to 10 jobs directly created at the venue, the consultants anticipate the creation of nearly 200 jobs indirectly supported by the facility through increased demand for hotel rooms, dining and other business services.

“By year 10 we expect the spending to be at least $11 million to $12 million a year” from events at the venue, and at local hotels and businesses, Johnson said. “This is a decent-sized business you’d be developing.”

The next step in the process is creating a mechanism that is going to own and operate the facility; garnering community support for the project; developing a financing strategy; and then design and construction.

Johnson cautioned City Council members not to reduce the size of the proposed facility.

“I think it is important to keep a strategic objective of the size,” he said. “You really have to have a strong marketing and management team for a venue like this.”

Official reaction to the proposal was positive.

“I love this idea,” said Vice Mayor Ed Danko. “I see a lot of potential with this. I think this is really worth pursuing.”

Council member Theresa Pontieri said she shares the enthusiasm for the project.

“I think it has the potential to be awesome,” she said. “Obviously the financial aspect is concerning.”

Council member Cathy Heighter was also impressed with the presentation.

“I think that it is amazing,” she said. “I cannot begin to imagine what it will do for this community. I think this city is ready.”

The proposed venue is part of discussions City Council is undertaking as part of the city’s Town Center Cultural and Arts Master Plan. The facility outlined in Johnson’s presentation is estimated to cost $73 million.