- November 4, 2021
Project: The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee
Location: 580 McIntosh Road, Sarasota
Cost: $29 million
Builder: Tandem Construction
Project details: In early 2018, the board of directors for the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee had a tough decision to make: to sell or not to sell.
The Federation campus, a few miles east of downtown Sarasota, is on 33 acres — half of which has yet to be developed. So it was time to figure out what the next step was going to be: sell the campus and move to downtown Sarasota or keep it and build. “The board made the decision that we want to keep this campus because we don’t think we can replicate it somewhere else,” says COO Kim Adler.
Then the planning began.
“We have the incredible opportunity to remake a campus that’s been around since the late 80s,” says Wayne Ruben, a vice president on the Federation’s board of directors and a longtime area developer.
Adler says they took a demographic study of the Jewish community in 2019 to help envision what the community needed and wanted. The study found there was a large percentage of Jewish children. That’s where the inspiration of building an indoor/outdoor 30,000-square-foot space for day camps got its start.
The redeveloped campus also will include new executive offices, a 10,000-square-foot event center and a 2.15-acre sports complex complete with an aquatic center and tennis courts. The campus’ addition of a Holocaust reflection park and educational center is currently under construction. “We are hoping to educate community members about differences in educational and cultural things,” he says. “We’re super excited about what this will do in Sarasota-Manatee for the community.”
Adler notes that the Federation partners with numerous nonprofits in the community.
“This campus will now create an opportunity for those groups to come to us,” she says, noting she hopes they can create joint programming for the entire community. “It will just be a beautiful welcoming space for people of various backgrounds, interests and ages.”
Cool factor: Right off the bat, Adler will tell you the coolest part of the project is the event space.
“We’re going to have this 10,000-square-foot ballroom space, which will set us apart from spaces that currently exist in the community,” she says. “I think that will make us unique.”
The space will also have a direct impact on the Jewish Federation’s programming, which generally takes place off campus. With the space, they’ll be able to host more often than not.
But that’s not the only aspect they’re really excited for. The addition of the Chaifetz Family Holocaust Remembrance Park is going to play a huge role in the Federation’s future. The park will be a space for community members to learn about the Holocaust and understand what happened.
“What we hope to do is have people learn the lessons from the Holocaust,” says Adler, “so these atrocities are not repeated in our collective future.”
On top of being an educational space, Adler notes it will also serve as a beautiful, peaceful place for visitors to relax and reflect. “Unfortunately we live in a world where anti-semitism is on the rise,” says Adler. “We want to make sure that there’s a space that exists for people to come and enjoy having life-cycle or nonprofit events.”
One more cool factor? The Ritter Wolk Security and Training Center.
Through a partnership with the Secure Community Network, the Federation employs Jewish Community Security Director Jeff Solomon on campus. The 3,000-square-foot center will house Solomon and act as the headquarters for security planning. Adler says it will be used to educate other Jewish organizations in the community as well as the Federation on just about anything from threat assessment to hurricane preparedness.
Challenges: Ruben checks off a long list of challenges, mostly pandemic-related, that have popped up. “It’s been a conundrum between financial resources getting strained everywhere, closing down the campus, tearing apart the campus, stopping construction, labor shortages, supply chain issues,” he trails off. “You name it.”
The cost of labor and materials also went up, taking the project from a $20 million pursuit to $29 million. Unfortunately, the Federation had budgeted for the original cost. So they’re currently back raising more money.
However, Ruben’s nothing but upbeat about those challenges, noting the pandemic made the Federation stronger than it was before. “It made us think long and hard about the project,” he says, even going as far as to make changes. “If you can survive those (challenges), you can survive anything.”
The Federation also went through a CEO transition in recent months, with the retirement of longtime leader Howard Tevlowitz. “Adler says the transition with new CEO Shep Englander is going well — despite a steep learning curve between navigating a pandemic and a big construction project at the same time.
Despite the challenges, the Federation continues to look forward into its future at all of the possibilities. “It’s nice we have the space available to continue to dream,” says Adler. “We don’t have to stop here.”
The Cool Construction issue is, like it sounds, a deep dive into the more unique projects being built in the region — in what’s obviously an unusual time. Read about more of the coolest by clicking the links below: