New $100 million performing arts center in the works in Boca Raton
A new high tech performing arts center is aiming to become the pillar of the arts community in Boca Raton. The center aims to be the city’s cultural home for immersive theater, music and dance.
Founders of the Boca Raton Center for Arts and Innovation plan to expand beyond traditional arts programming such as ballet, symphonies and orchestras into digital and immersive media experiences.
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Co-founder Andrea Virgin, the chairperson of the board, says the city has been “sitting in the 60-mile gap between Kravis Center and Broward Center for decades.” The Boca native says the new mixed-use, performance arts project may attract young audiences.
“There is a place in our world for all of those traditional types of art forms. We would be naïve to think that the audience base is growing at a rapid pace,” said Virgin. “So we have to be flexible in order to entertain the kind of audience of tomorrow.”
Organizers are currently busy fundraising. The former ballet dancer-turned-civil engineer estimates the cost will be more than $100 million. Construction of the project in the north end of Mizner Park could begin between 2024 and 2025.
People can expect various experiences at the center, such as new amphitheater, helical screens and retractable seating and balconies, a runway stage, a rooftop terrace, and a projection mapping of its canopy, which shows, for example, an open-air planetarium.
Virgin, who danced for Ballet Florida and Houston Ballet II, joined the board of the Boca Ballet Theater because she felt the need to give back to the organization — one of several ways she supports the local arts scene.
The architecture of the new performing arts center, she says, doesn’t feature your typical space with fixed seats and fixed stage setups.
“Artists are looking to create things that are unprecedented, that kind of nexus of art and technology. They push boundaries,” said Virgin. "They look at things that haven't been done before ... and if a performing arts center is not equipped to be able to promote that type of programming potential, then artists aren't able to kind of meet their own demands of what they'd like to do in terms of pushing art and programming forward.”
Mizner Park was built through a referendum and bonds. Taxpayers have been waiting for over a decade for this type of project to be built.
Founders of the city-approved cultural project, such as Virgin, see an economic boost once organizers finish building the “chapter that was never fulfilled.”
“We lose a tremendous amount of money to other cities and counties because we don’t have anything here,” said Virgin. "So people hop in their cars or, soon, hop in the Brightline because we’re getting a Brightline station here, and they’re gonna take their economic dollars and their spending and go to places where this infrastructure exists.”