Rosemary rising: Community to break ground for amphitheater this spring
Rosemary Beach will soon join the ranks of Seaside and Alys Beach with its own amphitheater.
The plan that has long been in the works is finally coming to fruition for the town, with the groundbreaking tentatively set for early 2013.
“We have greens, but we don’t really have a venue,” said Town Manager Jim Bagby of the need for an outdoor amphitheater within the town.
The project started in the early 2000s as a shared facility between Rosemary, Seaside, and Alys Beach. The thought was to create a multi-million dollar performing arts facility to host productions by the Northwest Florida Ballet and Sinfonia for all of South Walton to enjoy.
“All of South Walton needed a performing arts facility,” said Kathy Kemp, marketing director for Rosemary Beach.
“When we did our feasibility study, it was going to be a performing arts” space like the Mattie Kelly Arts Center in Niceville, said Bagby of what was to be a $20 million state-of-the-art facility. “Things were roaring along.”
But when the housing market tanked, the partnership and plans were scaled back to the current design, a beautiful, multipurpose outdoor amphitheater and pool space for Rosemary owners and guests.
The indoor-outdoor space will be built on the St. Augustine Green abutting Highway 98 at the northern boundary of the development.
With preliminary plans in place, Rosemary Beach called on its owners for their input earlier this year at the annual town meeting July 4.
“We got lots of comments, most of them very positive,” said Bagby. But those gathered had some criticisms as well, and the board made sure to take those into account in the subsequent designs.
“You get one shot at it … to make it a very inclusive project,” said Bagby of the importance of owners’ input.
The planners went back to the drawing board and replaced the bocce ball courts with a lawn, simplified the pavilion area and came up with what is now the final plan by DAG Architects, approved Dec. 17.
“It’s been a very collaborative effort,” said Kemp. “I think we have come out better.”
Roger Godwin of DAG as well as Carey McWhorter of McWhorter Architecture designed the plan, which has evolved into a multipurpose pavilion and community gathering area.
A terraced lawn will lead up to the performance space, which will be a covered platform designed to heighten acoustic quality. Louvered doors from the main and side stages will open onto the pool area and, when opened, the performances will be backdropped by a water wall visible in the pool area.
The pool will be a relaxing sanctuary with a zero-edge entry, a sun shelf and a 25-meter lap section. The deck surrounding the pool will include a large dining area as well as cabanas.
An upstairs bar complete with a Juliet balcony will overlook the pool oasis. Owners can relax on the second story, which will also be available for added drama in performances.
The entire pool and amphitheater area will be anchored by an “iconic” Rosemary tower.
The cost to build the performance venue and pool will be around $3 million, all of which will come from Rosemary’s own coffers.
“All is on track for the project,” according to Kemp, and the ground-breaking for the building is set for April 1, 2013.
Those who have witnessed the project grow from concept to reality are excited to bring to the community a place to watch various artistic performances and host community events, from music and dance performances to Rosemary Unleashed, an annual Rosemary event to benefit Alaqua Animal Refuge.
“It will enhance everyone’s experience,” said Kemp, “another layer of a way to enjoy this town.”