Why Center for Arts & Innovation could turn into Boca Raton’s ‘cultural hub’

Why Center for Arts & Innovation could turn into Boca Raton’s ‘cultural hub’
The Edith & Martin Stein Public Lobby interior perspective at the forthcoming Center for Arts & Innovation in Boca Raton

You may already know the famous Centre Pompidou in Paris, The Shard in London, or even The Whitney in New York. The renowned Italian architecture firm behind these storied structures — the Renzo Piano Building Workshop — has been tapped to design the future Center for Arts & Innovation in Boca Raton’s Mizner Park, part of a long-term effort to give Palm Beach County residents a “cultural hub.”

“Innovation is like beauty — you don’t just say someone is beautiful for their exterior, they’re also beautiful because of their mind,” architect Renzo Piano said in a statement. “The same sentiment will apply to The Center. It’s not about being a beautiful building; the beauty is in what will be created and invented inside the building.”

Added Piano: “It’s about inventing. It’s about starting and working and seeing. We’re at the beginning and so what you see in these early designs – it’s not printed in stone. Rather, it’s the beginning of what we’re inventing and of something really unique.”

The Piazza as seen looking north from Plaza Real, conceptual design for The Center for Arts and Innovation

Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The Piazza as seen looking north from Plaza Real, conceptual design for The Center for Arts and Innovation

The Centers’ chair and CEO Andrea Virgin, a former ballet dancer turned civil engineer, envisions the exhibition and performance space as not only a multi-use, three-story building for top-tier entertainment but as an everyday gathering spot for local residents.

She said the recently unveiled conceptual design by the Pritzker prize-winning architectural firm is one way to attract even more interest to the $100-million-plus project and that the creative process is just as important as the meaning behind the building itself — the firm’s design philosophy is “always inviting,” Virgin told WLRN.

“There’s no threshold-anxiety of walking into one of his buildings because it just feels like a natural extension of the public piazza that he always integrates in his projects,” she said.

READ MORE: Approved: New $115 million performing arts center in Boca Raton closer to being a ‘cultural hub’

The project is being funded through donations. It has doubled its seed funding to $30 million during the design process in the last few years.

The next phase of development includes private capital funding from organizations such as the the James & Marta Batmasian Family Foundation, Elizabeth H. Dudley, the Kent Jordan Family, the Schmidt Family Foundation, The Edith & Martin Stein Family Foundation, and Virgin.

The center expects to accommodate 6,000 people with a main theater, intimate spaces and amphitheater. It’s more than 100,000 square feet of activity, aiming to foster frequent programming from comprehensive STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) education programs and interactive work spaces to creator residences.

Virgin says the ethos of the Center surrounds four societal pillars: the arts, education, business and the community.

“People are looking for more inspiration, opportunities for artists and entrepreneurs to bud together, the opportunity for students and professionals to bump into one another,” Virgin added.

“We’re not building an opera house. We’re not building an incubator space. We’re not building any dedicated space,” said Virgin. “Similar to [facilities] things like the Park Avenue Armory in New York, where artists come in or people come in and imagine that space completely differentiated from anything that’s ever happened there before.”

During a special meeting in 2022, the Boca Raton City Council and Community Redevelopment Agency of Boca Raton approved a 74-year ground lease, with two ten-year extension options for a total of 94 years.

Wood model, north east view of Center for Arts and Innovation in Boca Raton

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Wood model, north east view of Center for Arts and Innovation in Boca Raton

Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Facility construction is scheduled to begin in 2025 — the 100-year anniversary of Boca Raton. The projected opening is set for 2029.

An economic impact study estimates business activity will be north of $1 billion and generate 12,000 jobs.

Virgin and the center’s backers argue that construction costs vary depending on the market and it’s difficult to estimate the final cost over several years.’

“We’ve got to try to fundraise as quickly as we can,” said Virgin. “We want to get shovels in the ground because every day longer that it takes to do that the project gets more expensive, expensive through inflation.”

Residents can view the Center for Arts & Innovation project designs against a backdrop at the retrospective exhibition of Renzo Piano and RPBW: Le Fil Rouge of Contemporary Architecture at the Boca Museum of Art through May 19.