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Update May 16, 2015

Arts & Culture provide economic stimulus New!

Arts and culture centers and activities are 'catalysts for stimulating economic, job & tourism development as well as improving the quality of life.'

Economic Contributions of Arts + Culture to Space Coast 2015
From an impact study produced for rBrevard Cultural Alliance (BCA):
- $125 million in total sales
- $71.3 million added to GDP
- 1,537 jobs full and part-time
More info and download of full study:

Melbourne will not have a better opportunity for establishing a cultural center, or arts and culture center in downtown Melbourne, which can become a cultuiral magnet for visitors and develop into a cultural destination and bring long term financia and culturall benefits to the area.


Updated May 16, 2015

Old Melbourne High School:
A sound, common sense course of action for the
City of Melbourne and the Brevard County School Board

This action paper presents a sound, common sense way for City of Melbourne and Brevard County School to proceed regarding the old Melbourne High School building in downtown Melbourne -- to assure the best benefit to the City, the School Board, and the citizens of the region.


1. Summary of 'What's this all about?'
2. Re-use of old Mel Hi
3. Now or never
4. An apartment building is not 'public use!'
5. Model for re-use: Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria VA
6. MAI study: Financial contributions of the Torpedo Factory Art Center
7. MAI study recommendations to Alexandria: Keep the Art Center
8. ArtCenter in Miami Beach + Wynwood Arts District
9. City of Melbourne opportunity
10. Past attempts to establish Old Mel Hi as an art center
11. $4 million 'upgrade' required?
12. Advantages of an art center to City of Melbourne
13. Cultural Center: Old Mel Hi Art Center + Henegar Center
14. What now? A reasonable course of action
15. A feasibility study
16. We propose that...
17. 'Open and transparent process' needed
18. Citizen action: Act now!
19. Contact City Council + School Board, Full Info
20. Renovation vs Tear Down -- a Clearwater example
21. National Historic Register?
22. The Developer and Alfie, the barber
23.. Benefits of historic preservation New!
24.. A few success stories New!

Footnote: Thanks to many who contributed to this effort



Re: Old Melbourne High School in downtown Melbourne

Florida Today: 'The high school was dedicated in 1926 and closed in 1975. Various restoration plans fizzled over the years: creating a cabaret theater and art gallery; founding a museum; selling the site to the Florida Institute of Technology.'

Strawbridge Art League (SAL) was a 14-year tenant in the Henegar Center, and paid as much as $100,000 in rent to Henegar, all the while working unsuccessfully to establish an art center in the old high school building. 'Doc' Strawbridge, for whom SAL is named, and his 'Over the Hill' group, was instrumental in establishing the Henegar Center, said John Emery, SAL past president, and hoped to have theater in Henegar elementary building and visual arts in the old high school.

A developer wants to buy old Melbourne High School from current owner Brevard Regional Arts Group (BRAG) and build an apartment building on the site, and is promoted by City of Melbourne. Wendy Brandon, wife of developer Harry Brandon, is Exec. Director of the Henegar Center, the building also owned by BRAG. At a school board workshop convened to discuss this topic on January 27, 2015, Wendy Brandon said the Henegar Center hopes to establish an endowment foundation of $500,000 for itself from proceeds of the sale of the old building.

However there is 'a 1976 Brevard Public Schools "reverter clause" stating that the old high school and parking lot must be used for public purposes. Otherwise, the land titles would go back to the original owners — the school district,' says Florida Today story by Rick Neale and Mackenzie Ryan.

At the workshop, School Board Chair Amy Kneesy advised Wendy Brandon to bring to school board their highest and best offer in writing to a School Board meeting open to the public, at 5:30pm Tues. Feb. 10, 2015.

New! On Feb. 10, the school board determined to move ahead with sale of building.The '2nd (and final) reading' of the proposal is set for School Board meeting 5:30pm Tues. Feb. 24.

The possibility of selling the historical building and tearing it down for an apartment building has ignited renewed interest in doing otherwise.

Note: NO full feasibility study has been conducted to determine if optional uses of old Mel Hi building are feasible or not. Only renovation costs have been done. NO long term benefits of options have been determined.



Old Melbourne High School public property should go to higher re-use purpose, not to an apartment building which can be built anywhere.

Zimmerman should be encouraged to build in other downtown Melbourne sites.



Is there now adequate cultural interest here in Melbourne to pursue the higher and better uses for the old Melbourne High School building and site? Consideration for it appears to be urgent -- now or never, given the circumstance.



At the School Board workshop on January 27, 2015, which was closed to public comment, Melbourne City Mgr McNees proposed that an apartment building should be equated with 'public use' and should therefore be able to secure school property, the use of which requires 'public use.' That certainly is a stretch, don't you think? By McNees' reasoning, a restaurant or any other business open to the public would qualify...

McNees at the workshop said the Trinity Towers apartment building at the southwest corner of the original school property, facing Melbourne Avenue, established that apartment buildings are 'public use.' The establishment of that Trinity Towers project came with much public concern, because it, too, was a violation of original intent for use of school property. But with the persuasion of the late Father Boyer of Holy Trinity Church and others, no doubt, the misuse went forward, violation notwithstanding.

If that public property goes to a private developer for an apartment building, that means taxpayers are funding private development -- without a say in the matter -- and that is clearly inappropriate and wrong.



Brief History

The Torpedo Factory Art Center was founded in 1974 on the Potomac River waterfront in downtown Alexandria VA. This well known art center provides an excellent model for what could be done with the old Melbourne High School building.

From the art center's website: The original building was an actual torpedo factory built in 1918. After the close of WW2, the space was used for government storage. In 1969 the City of Alexandria purchased the buildings from the Federal Government. Several years passed and an acceptable plan was put forward to renovate the building into working studio spaces for artists. The Torpedo Factory Artists' Association was born, and in 1974 the Torpedo Factory Art Center was opened to the public.

Friends of the Torpedo Factory Art Center was established in 1982 as a community outreach arm of the Torpedo Factory and it's resident artists. The Friends' programs promoted public awareness of the value of the arts in daily life by taking artists into the community as well as bringing the community into the Arts Center, thus culturally enriching Alexandria. Programs such as the Artist of the Year Award and the Performance Art and Lecture Series provided opportunities for patrons and professionals to enjoy artistic programs of the highest quality. Mentership and Young at Art Programs provided local communities to take part.

Today the Torpedo Factory Art Center is home to 165 professional artists who work, exhibit and sell their art, attracting over half a million visitors yearly, and artists come from across the region and around the world.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center is an example of how the arts can revitalize a community, and it serves as a prototype for visual arts facilities.

The waterfront location of this art center in old downtown Alexandria happened to be in an area that became targeted for redevelopment -- "in the most commercial area of the Alexandria Waterfront." I can imagine real estate interests thirsting for a chance to develop the waterfront site, can't you? And some City Council member saying, "hey, let's stop supporting the art center and just collect taxes."



In 2010, MAI (Management Analysis, Incorporated) prepared a study of the Torpedo Factory Art Center for City of Alexandria to assess the economic contribution provided by the art center to the City.

A PDF of the study is accessible online here.

MAI: Torpedo Factory provides "more than $16.2 million in direct revenues and received some 400,000 visitors annually."

In the MAI study: "$39 per person average visitor spending x 394,300 visitors = $15.378 million spent in the City in 2009."

"… the total economic impact of tourists coming for the cultural events and activities such as those found at the Torpedo Factory was $66.4 million in the year 2006. One can therefore assume that slightly less than one-fourth of all the total cultural tourism spending in the City estimated by this study was attributable to the Torpedo Factory Art Center, or approximately $15 million."

" The Torpedo Factory Art Center Visitor Impact Study conducted from June 1993 through May 1994 reported more than 820,000 visits with 83% of those visitors being from out of town."

The question for Alexandra was not unlike the question for Melbourne: retain Torpedo Factory Art Center? or abandon it and -- put an apartment building there instead -- for example?



MAI recommendations: "Given the economic value, cultural significance and reputation of the Torpedo Factory which benefits Alexandria, the Project Team (MAI) recommends retaining the current use of the building as an art center, but focusing efforts on improving its economic self sufficiency and vitality as a tourist attraction."

The MAI study documents such benefits in a very thorough manner, and references other similar successful community art centers.



ArtCenter/South Florida on Lincoln Road in downtown Miami Beach is among other community art centers mentioned in the MAI study. ArtCenter established in 1984 as a non-profit arts organization.

"With Community Development Block Grant funds from the City of Miami Beach, ArtCenter artists took up residence in 21 storefronts on a then nearly abandoned and severely dilapidated Lincoln Road. ...

"... Today ArtCenter is commonly credited as being the catalyst for an astounding revitalization of Lincoln Road and the surrounding area.

Note the investment from the City of Miami Beach. Do you think the City has benefited from that investment in an art center? You betcha!

The Wynwood Arts District in mainland downtown Miami is the same concept applied to a whole region maybe a mile square, depressed just a few short years ago, now lively with galleries, shops, cafes and business activity and increased real estate value.

The arts enrich and enliven areas -- we do know that, don't we?

But leadership is required.



MAI: The concept of building art centers is an example of adaptive reuse in architecture.

Melbourne City Council members might ponder what all this means -- and could mean -- for the City of Melbourne.

Currently, there is an opportunity for the long range enrichment of cultural life in the Melbourne area, by adapting the existing old high school building for use as an art center, with studios, galleries, education program -- and, at the same time -- by that enrichment, provide financial benefit to the City of Melbourne.



It is frequently said that various art groups have unsuccessfully sought funding to restore the old high school building and put it to use as some kind of art center, but were unable to do so.

'Money' is always the reason given for earlier failures to establish an art center at old Mel Hi. Maybe there was insufficient community support for cultural affairs. Or, perhaps it was the wrong arts group at the wrong time. Or, maybe just not enough people knew about the effort, and the base of support simply wasn't big enough -- for whatever reason.

Maybe the long range benefits simply were not known by enough people. Building wide spread support is easier today with digital communications.



The City of Melbourne officials have said about $4 million is required to upgrade the building to current usable standards. In the development world -- and in the arts world today -- though considerable, that is not an insurmountable obstacle. But it was enough to cause earlier efforts to 'run out of steam' and give up on it.

Is the time now right for Old Mel Hi Art Center?

The level of interest in cultural affairs is definitely on the rise.

And for the old Mel Hi building, it's now or never -- due to the circumstance, ie pressure for real estate development.



We know people prefer to live in an area that is rich in cultural activity -- the more cultural activities in all of the arts, the better.

Look again at the contributions to Alexandria of the Torpedo Factory Art Center: financial and cultural, greatly enriching that city.

Similar economic advantages, though smaller scale, would accrue to City of Melbourne from an art center at old Mel Hi.

If visitors to a downtown Melbourne art center spent an average of $39 in downtown Melbourne -- using figures from Alexandria which could be applicable -- you'd have:

103,000 visitors x $39 = $4 million.

Even if that number of visitors stretched out over… five years? -- you'd have to conclude that support for an art center was at least worthy of serious consideration -- urgent consideration, given the situation.

Over a period of years the financial return to City of Melbourne would be meaningful and cultural activities would be enhanced -- a win-win for Melbourne.

In the long term then, would a $4 million investment begin to seem worthwhile?



The high school building would probably accommodate at least 30 to 50 artist studios of varying sizes. Nowhere else in our region is there an art center of this potential.

The Old Mel Hi Art Center with the visual arts in one building, and theater and performing arts in he Henegar Center next door would combine to create a valuable cultural center in downtown Melbourne.

As one local retired architect has said: The younger generation and the younger business generation, would undoubtedly recognize the value of this cultural center and they would support it.

What makes a city seem alive and vibrant? There's more to it than congestion. People ENJOY arts and all that means… and, with exposure, the value to the community of the arts increases. With this resource potential, a downtown cultural center, Melbourne is at a most fortunate crossroads -- if the City does not goof it up.



Step 1: Halt sale of the Old Melbourne High School building before this whole thing is moot. Sale and destruction of the building asset should be stopped and not allowed to go forward without first fully examining art center option for Melbourne, including proper feasibility study.

2nd: The art center option needs to be seriously discussed by interested parties not in a hurry to do otherwise. Interested parties includes artists and artist organizations, arts organizations in the region including Brevard Cultural Alliance, as well as the City of Melbourne. Suddenly, thanks to the circumstance, people are stepping up to take action to move on this. Some time needs to be given for the interested parties to come together and help take the next step.

3rd: Conduct a $50,000. feasibility study. MAI President Arthur L. Smith headed the project team for the Torpedo Factory Art Center study. Mr. Smith advises that MAI could do such a study for Melbourne for $50,000. Such a study would be somewhat easier to complete than the Torpedo Factory study (which cost twice as much) because the art center in Melbourne does not yet actually exist, whereas the Torpedo Factory study involved thirty years of accumulated data.

4th: Review the completed feasibility study and determine how to go forward -- establish the Old Mel Hi Art Center or forget it.



A feasibility study would:
a) require 3-4 months to complete, provided there are no zoning issues to be resolved.
b) estimate costs to create a complete working art center facility
c) estimate expected revenues
d) provide sources of grant funding

What's in a 'complete working art center? Working studios, exhibit spaces, classrooms, lighting, concept for use of all space -- and the right mix for all this, plus ventilation, elevator, parking and so on.



The City of Melbourne and the Brevard County School Board should act immediately in a way that will allow time for a proper feasibility study by MAI (Management Analysis, Incorporated) or other equal reputable, impartial management information firm, and time for full community review and consideration, as suggested in item 14 above.

This may put action on hold for 4, 5 or 6 months, possibly more.

If this building belonged to YOU, wouldn't YOU do everything in your power to fund an expert feasibility study to fully evaluate your options -- BEORE selling off one of your key assets? Especially when your investment would very likely be repaid many time over? You betcha!



There is a need for the whole full consideration process to be conducted openly and transparently and not behind closed doors -- where the greater public interest so often suffers.

It would be a huge loss to hurry to proceed with real estate sale without fully and properly considering full art center option -- for a cultural center -- and, in fact, the city would be negligent if it did not fully consider this option before proceeding with any disposition of the old high school building.



If YOU believe this is a sound course of action for the City of Melbourne and the Brevard County School Board, please:

Immediately: call, email or write to city council and school board members.

Copy + Paste Email: Sample

Full contact info: Contacts

Attend School Board meeting and speak up!
5:30pm Tues. Feb. 10 Brevard County School Board meeting open to the public
2700 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Viera, FL 32940
6:30pm Tues. Feb. 10 Melbourne City Council meeting
City Hall, 900 E. Strawbridge Ave., Melbourne FL 32901
(not currently on agenda, but there is opportunity public to speak early on any topic)
Both meetings same date! The School Board can decide on Feb 10 to sell the school property to Wendy Brandon's Henegar Center, and that closes down the deal. The Melbourne City Council is then satisfied. Therefore, School Board is priority to attend.


19. CONTACT INFO: School Board and Melbourne City Council: Contacts


20. RENOVATION VS TEAR DOWN: Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater

Clearwater officials banking on renovated Capitiol Theatre

By Kate Bradshaw, Tribune Staff, Nov. 13, 2013

...The $7.6-million project ran about a half-million dollars over budget, a gap the city helped cover because city officials believe the expanded venue will bring hundreds more people to Clearwater’s sleepy downtown.

“ This whole area is looking to be redeveloped,” said Jeff Hartzog, the venue’s general manager, who is also president of the Cleveland Street Business Alliance.



Frenchy's rooftop bar opening at Clearwater's Capitol Theatre

Tampa Bay Times, by Mike Brassfield, July 24, 2014

… Frenchy's owner Michael Preston donated $350,000 to the Capitol's renovation in exchange for naming rights to the theater's rooftop. He said he wanted to help bring back a rejuvenated downtown like the one he remembered from when he arrived in Clearwater four decades ago.

Ruth Eckerd Hall is still working on selling naming rights to the entire Capitol Theatre, which would likely retain the "Capitol" part of its name. The restored theater's first quarter in business went well, according to financial reports, and Buffman says the second quarter went well, too. …

… Contact Mike Brassfield at brassfield@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151.




Are we in too big a hurry? Why hasn't this option been explored fully? Federally-assisted renovation funds…

See: http://www.nps.gov/nr/



It is pure FICTION that the developer cannot build somewhere else. Quite naturally, he prefers the bargain price he is going to get, subsidized by public interest. Developers quench their thirst for deals at public expense, as frequently as possible. Some of that history is definitely part of this episode.

The developer has even contacted Alfie, downtown Melbourne barber, and tried to convince Alfie that he should drop his opposition to the apartment building at old Mel Hi.

Alfie told him: 'Never!'

(HOORAY for Alfie at Alfie's Barber Shop in downtown Melbourne!)



Preservation of historic properties -- such as Old Mel Hi -- demonstrates long-term vision by preserving irreplaceable cultural resources and promoting sustainability practices by conserving our limited environmental resources. Architecture is a direct and substantial representation of history and place. In addition to solidifying a community's past, preservation can help strengthen a community's future. Historic buildings help create vibrant cultural downtowns that draw tourism, art, festivals and other activities which in turn draw investment, revenue, and economic growth.
Source: http://preservewa.org/Benefits-Historic-Preservation.aspx

Historic Old Mel Hi is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Old Mel Hi is one of Eleven Most Endangered Historic Sites in Florida, 2015.

To increase public awareness of the urgent need to save Florida’s neglected or threatened historic resources, the endangered list is created annually by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation.

"[Old Mel Hi] is easily the largest, most visible, most recognizable, centrally-located, and unspoiled structure of the 1920s Florida Boom period in our area," says local historian Karen Raley. (See complete statement by local historian Karen Raley, click here.)

Historian Bob Gross: "Of all historical structures, historic schools are specially qualified for state and federal grants, especially for those who qualify for the National Register of Historic Places -- as does Old Mel Hi." 

As of March 17, 2015, not even Melbourne's own Historic Preservation Board had an opportunity to discuss their concerns with the city council. 

Historic places once threatened with destruction now enrich our lives.



Pike Street Market, Seattle, c. 1907
If you've been to Seattle, can you imagine that city without Pike Street Market?
When the maze of aging buildings was slated for demolition in the 1960s there was a rally to 'Save the Market' ... Today, Pike Place Market is a festive, lively, extremely popular downtown marketplace.


Historic Dayton Church Turned Restaurant is an Adaptive Reuse Success Story
A charming piece of Dayton history is new again; repurposed as a favorite community gathering place… Built in 1886…



Coddington Hall Restoration, Massachussetts
Located in the heart of Quincy, Massl, the building was designed by Charles A. Brigham in 1909 and was originally built as an elementary school.


Historical Restoration in downtown San Diego
Michael Mihos Construction completely restored the Colonel Fletcher Skylofts, originally known as the Colonel Fletcher Building. The four-story historic building in downtown San Diego ...


The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg
The salmon-colored Mediterranean Revival building opened in 1925 and has overlooked Tampa Bay ever since. In disrepair in the late 1970s, today's Vinoy has no equal ...


Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater
...The $7.6-million project ran about a half-million dollars over budget, a gap the city helped cover because city officials believe the expanded venue will bring hundreds more people to Clearwater ...


Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete
In 1924, Thomas Rowe hired Indianapolis architect Henry Dupont to design the hotel. In 1969 there were plans to raze the graffiti-covered hotel, but this was met with fierce opposition ...



THANKS TO MANY who contributed to this effort, including Brett Pigon, Past President, The Arts Students Guild of Brevard; John Emery, Preston Studios and Past President, Strawbridge Arts League; Kathy McElhinny, President, Strawbridge Arts League; Kathy Kett, Melbourne Civic Theater; Walter & Kitty Drew, The Adventure Center; Marguerite Kuhl; Charlie Conrader; Lloyd Behrendt; Larry Hughes, Brevard County School Board 2000-2008; Kay Maxey; Tom Beatty; Andy Ziegler; Patty Goffinett; Larry Kaczmarek; C. Donaldson; Zena MacLean; Fran Slaughter; B.J. Brown Freeman; Betsy Waterman; Karen Raley; Alfie the Barber; and Spence Guerin; and others, some of whom should remain anonymous.

For further information, please contact spence@oldmelhi.com

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