Eight months after mold forced the Orlando Ballet from its longtime home, the dance company could be moving to new headquarters in a prime location, Orlando's Loch Haven Park.
Leaders of the city and the ballet have struck a deal that will let the dance company rent the Loch Haven Community Center for $1 per year. The 99-year lease is similar to a shorter one the city has with the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, also in the park off Princeton Street near downtown.
"It is an amazing location that brings us right into the heart of the city's cultural core," said Ava Doppelt, president of the ballet's board.
The Orlando City Council will vote on the proposed deal Monday. It would require the ballet to invest $5.5 million for renovations to the 50-year-old center and construction of an adjacent building that would house its dance school. One donor already has pledged $2.5 million, said Doppelt, who declined to name the benefactor. The remaining $3 million would come from state grants and a fundraising campaign.
The ballet also would be responsible for maintaining the center, as well as making it available to rent for meetings or social events such as weddings.
The deal makes financial sense for the city, said Laurie Botts, the city's real-estate manager. The community center had been rented only about 30 times in the past year and was running a deficit of about $30,000.
Near the Orlando Science Center parking garage, the lakefront headquarters "will be virtually a new building," Botts said. A rendering shows a sleek, modern, curved structure dominated by large windows.
Renovations would start "immediately" if the deal is approved, said Doppelt, and school construction would begin in August. The project could be complete in 18 months.
Other terms would require the ballet to maintain an enrollment of 250 students in its school, provide 10 scholarships to Orlando residents, hold community-outreach programs for youths and senior citizens, distribute a portion of unsold performance tickets to underprivileged city residents and hold open houses of the facility. Each year the ballet would have to submit a report detailing how it's living up to the city's terms.
Ballet executives said they would have no problems meeting the requirements.
"If we can survive a year like this year, I think we can do it," said artistic director Robert Hill.
The ballet's troubles began in August, when mold was discovered in the troupe's headquarters and school, the 112-year-old former Orlando Utilities Commission power plant near Lake Ivanhoe. The ballet scrambled for new accommodations, with dancers rehearsing at Walt Disney World and the Church Street Exchange building downtown.
A warehouse near Orange Avenue and Princeton Street was converted into a school, and Florida Hospital provided office space.
The new location, which fronts Lake Formosa Drive, would place all the ballet's functions under one roof, although the school would continue to operate satellite campuses in Longwood and southwest Orange County. It's also within walking distance of the current school and the soon-to-be SunRail station at Florida Hospital.
Besides the Shakespeare theater, Loch Haven Park is home to the Orlando Museum of Art, the Orlando Repertory Theatre, the city-owned Mennello Museum of American Art and Orlando Fire Museum, and the Orlando Science Center.
The deal would complement Mayor Buddy Dyer's focus on strengthening the city's arts and culture, a spokeswoman said.
The Loch Haven center was originally constructed as a dance hall and through the years has hosted proms, summer camps and a dance program for adults with special needs, Botts said.
"It has a long history of dance," she said. "Now it can become the permanent home of the Orlando Ballet."
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