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Cool Construction

Longboat Key community hub overcomes fundraising challenges

Rising costs led to a push for more financial support from town residents for the Karon Family Pavilion.

A special paint technique was used on the Karon Family Pavilion ceiling to provide a more unique, artistic appearance.
A special paint technique was used on the Karon Family Pavilion ceiling to provide a more unique, artistic appearance.
Photo by Carter Weinhofer
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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Project details

Utilizing almost five acres of land on Bay Isles Road, the Town of Longboat Key has a long-range plan to create a town center to serve as a community hub for its residents. 

An outdoor stage and event space was an important component of that, and Jon F. Swift Construction wound up being the ideal construction management firm to carry that vision forward. The Sarasota-based company previously worked on other projects on the barrier island, such as Bayfront Park and Fire Station 92.

“From doing a lot of work on Longboat Key, we understand the restrictive work hours and the noise ordinances,” says Ross Russo, vice president of Jon F. Swift Construction. “We’re familiar with the building department and all the town stakeholders in the administration. I think that helps us have an edge over others because we have all that experience.” (More Longboat wins: Jon F. Swift was just named the construction manager for the new public library that will be built at the town center site.)

The 1,500-square-foot bandshell and stage that officially opens to the public in early November will allow the town to host performances put on by local arts groups. “It’s such a cool opportunity to engage the community in an outdoor space versus a very costly indoor theater with acoustics and all the things,” says Emmalee Legler, director of marketing and operations at Jon F. Swift Construction.

The project also included restrooms and storage, 1,000 linear feet of rubberized surface walkway, stormwater improvements, installation of various utilities and lighting and landscaping elements.

Cool factor

The concrete bandshell has curved block walls laid on a radius. “It gives it an architectural look,” says Russo.

One of the coolest elements of the open-air pavilion is something many people might overlook: a special paint technique was used on the ceiling for a more unique, artistic appearance.

“It gives a wood feel to a concrete product,” says Russo. “I know that it was very important to have this feeling of warmth…Trying to achieve that was a challenge, and the process was unique. We actually went through several different painters before we settled on the company we used.”

The eventual addition of the library to the town center area will only increase the potential that already exists for the pavilion to serve as a community gathering spot. “The activation of the space is going to be huge out there,” says Legler.


The Karon Family Pavilion owes its name to one of the biggest challenges the project faced — funding. “In construction in the past 30 months, costs have doubled in everything,” says Russo. “Everything’s more money, but that was quite a challenge.”

When the costs of the project wound up being much more than the Town of Longboat Key anticipated, the town reached out to the community to help make the vision a reality. The Karon family led the community charge to make up the funding shortfall, with several other Longboat Key residents also contributing to the effort.

“The town went out to the community and said ‘we know you want this to be something we can all utilize as a community asset,’” says Legler. “[The Karon family] realized the value of this whole town center green and didn’t want to see that go to the wayside.” 

Hurricane Ian impacted Florida’s Gulf Coast when the 12-month project had just gotten started, so that didn’t affect things much. When Hurricane Idalia was threatening earlier this year, the construction team sprang into action.

“We went out there and pulled about everything that we could pull off the site,” says Russo. “Thankfully neither one really affected us like they did elsewhere. We have a very detailed hurricane plan that we implement on all of our projects. The only difference with this being on a barrier island is that we take it to another level.”



Beth Luberecki

Nokomis-based freelance writer Beth Luberecki, a Business Observer contributor, writes about business, travel and lifestyle topics for a variety of Florida and national publications. Her work has appeared in publications and on websites including Washington Post’s Express, USA Today, Florida Trend, and Learn more about her at

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