Arts center to be part of Northwood project

The Northwood Center, before it was razed and purchased by the city. Photo courtesy:

The Tallahassee City Commission had a lot on its plate Wednesday, but no item stood out like the future of the Northwood Center, set to be the future headquarters of the Tallahassee Police Department and other entities. Including a possible center for the arts.

This is when the lobbying began.

“If you are here to support the Sheridan Center please stand and let your presence be known,” Judy Sheridan said to the audience in City Hall.

Much of the crowd behind Sheridan stood up and wore or held up a ruby red shirt that read, “Support Center for the Arts now!” Which concluded a creative virtual presentation led by the Council on Culture & Arts, also known as COCA, as city commissioners moved forward on the proposal.

Sheridan, who is the director of The Michael H. Sheridan and Judy W. Sheridan Center for the Arts Foundation, asked for approval from the city to contribute five acres of land as part of the Northwood Center master plan site located on Martin Luther King Boulevard, directly behind the Hooters on North Monroe Street.

The foundation wants to construct the Sheridan Center on approximately 20,000 square feet of land that will include three primary facilities: a large, 450-seat auditorium to be used for both music and theater, a black box theater that can accommodate approximately 150 seats, and a flexible multi-purpose hall with a catering kitchen for rehearsals, banquets, receptions or other performances.

Sheridan said her hope for the center was that it would be accessible for other local art programs in need of a performing arts space.

“Now imagine this, all in one location, centrally located for use by non-profits in Tallahassee along with adequate parking to accommodate the use of all three venues at once,” she told city commissioners. “I think you will all agree that the non-profits need, and Tallahassee wants this center, and you have the power to make it happen now.”

Donna Cotterell, founder and president of Indaba Theatre as well as supporter of the proposed Sheridan Center, spoke about the importance of two things: Diversity, Equity Inclusion (DEI) and accessibility.

“Where is our performance arts center, our cultural center, our heritage center to uplift folks who look like me,” she asked the commissioners. “If we want to be a great capital city, we must celebrate the diversity of our city.”

Mayor John Dailey said he supports the proposal for a performing arts center and believes it will have a positive impact in the community.

“It is the proverbial boulder that is being thrown into the lake that will cause a ripple effect that will positively impact everything,” he told commissioners.

The details of the performing arts space have yet to be finalized as this was the first of many meetings to be organized on behalf of the Northwood Center planning project, Dailey said.