Performing Arts Center Proposed for City of St. Augustine Land

A non-profit organization will propose to the city commission on Monday to build a performing arts center on city land on State Road 312 near Mizell Road.

The center is expected to cost more than $100 million, said Albert Syeles, president of the St. Augustine epicenter Alliance, the nonprofit leading the effort.

The Epicenter Alliance is a group of arts and culture leaders who have come together to build a center for the performing arts in St. Johns County.

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Syeles said the nonprofit has found support for the project from investors and donors, and most of the money is on hold.

“And it looks like this thing is ready to burst,” Syeles said. “I mean, we have everything in place except an agreement on a particular ground.”

As St. Johns County continues to grow, there is more demand for performing arts space and less existing land, he said.

The group is exploring several options in addition to the SR 312 site, which spans 33 acres on the northwest side of the SR 312 and Mizell Road intersection. The association offers to rent the property.

An artist's drawing shows the planned performing arts center a local nonprofit wants to build on city land on State Road 312 near Mizell Road in St. Augustine.

The center would include, among other things, an auditorium and theater space; A coffee; gallery and museum space; a rooftop restaurant and indoor-outdoor jazz club; and conference and office space, according to a presentation by the EpiCenter Alliance.

Current plans include parking and shuttle service to downtown and other locations, Syeles said. The venue will be primarily for the community, with priority use of space given to project founders and St. Johns County individuals and organizations.

A public-private partnership with the city, if formed, could also include investments in workforce housing, Syeles said.

A report for the St. Johns County Tourism Development Board completed by Johnson Consulting said the county needs a new performing arts center. The report was presented to the board in 2019.

“The expansion of arts, culture and entertainment facilities will help meet existing needs, broaden the selection of events held in the county, extend visitor stays and allow the county to attract more residents and of visitors, and to capture visitors who might otherwise travel to other locations in search of these activities,” according to the report.

In 2019, Charles Johnson, president of Johnson Consulting, said a 500-seat venue could likely break even or approach it.

He highlighted several reasons for confidence in the financial viability of such a project, including: the resounding success of The Amp (74,000 tickets sold with $3.3 million in ticket revenue in the first half of 2019) and Ponte Vedra Concert Lobby; overall tourist attraction of the destination; site; and the demographics of this growing and affluent population.

The planned annual direct expenditure for such a project has been estimated at $30 million, with a total economic impact of $54 million per year.

The EpiCenter Alliance proposes to build something “four times bigger”, Syeles said.

“It will be an international attraction as it is designed,” he said.

The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. at St. Augustine City Hall, and people can also watch live at citystaugtv.com.