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Capital Campaign kicks off for The Community House renovation project

By Staff | Oct 14, 2015

The Community House’s north entrance, along Periwinkle Way, will undergo renovations creating an Old Florida style. PROVIDED

A capital campaign to raise $2 million is underway to restore the “Heart of the Island,” so The Community House can continue to be used for future generations.

President Tom Sharbaugh said The Community House is an important place for Sanibel because it was the first public building constructed on the island by the citizens to address the needs of the community.

“As a result, almost everything that developed on Sanibel in terms of organizations and services, started in this building. Some of them have grown and have their own buildings much bigger than this building,” he said. “It all started right here on Sanibel and that was 87 years ago when the building was initially built.”

Throughout the years, 57 island organizations and more than 50,000 people use the Community House for yearly use creating a center for much civic and cultural activity.

Last Tuesday an organizing luncheon was held, which kicked off the capital campaign for The Community House’s renovation project. During the luncheon, the board of directors shared that a cut off date of raising funds for May 2016 has been set, with a tentative renovation completion date for a year from now. The Community House has a tentative reopening date of November 2016.

The east entrance of The Community House will have a covered entrance without stairs, allowing individuals to drop off people close to the doors. PROVIDED

“This facility is built and run by the citizens, maintained and paid for over the years by the citizens to use through membership fees,” Sharbaugh explained. “It has maintained that independence all through its tenure on the island and that continues through to this day.”

The renovation project has been scheduled because the 88 year old structure, as well as the basic systems, are lacking in today’s times.

“The community of Sanibel itself has changed overtime and it is a more sophisticated population. We think we need to create a Community House that fits the needs of today’s Sanibel community,” Sharbaugh said.

The estimated cost for the building and site construction is $1.2 million; the furnishing, fixtures, kitchen, AV equipment and landscaping has a price tag of $500,000 and the administration and funding cost, contingency is estimated for $275,000.

Sharbaugh took those in attendance through a detailed artist rendering and interior floor plan to further describe the project’s intentions. The Community House will remain in the same location it has stood on for more than 80 years.

The new interior floor plan, he said will eliminate the solid wall between the middle room and the auditorium. The wall will be replaced with a flexible wall that can be included, or eliminated, depending on what the space will be used for.

“You will be able to open up this wall and the next wall and open up the entire space from the front of the building to the stage in one large opening that will accommodate a nice crowd,” he said.

Sharbaugh said the project will add a covered entrance way to the building without steps and a much larger lobby that will be inviting for those who visit The Community House. A larger office space, bathrooms triple the size of what they are currently; a brand new conference room and a state-of-the-art chef kitchen are also exciting additions for the House.

The exterior of the building will also be restored in a very accurate and historical way, Sharbaugh said, adding that the Sanibel Preservation Committee shared great enthusiasm about their plans. The Florida look will be wrapped around the entire complex.

“The parking lot is going to be redesigned and made more efficient. A ton of exterior landscaping (will be) put in that will soften the look of the place and make it look outstanding from the street view,” he said.

The entire facility will also receive new electrical, plumbing, energy efficient HVAC and modern audio, video and WiFi.

“It’s a project that will take us from the past to the future and will create something that will be wonderful for today’s citizens of Sanibel and for future generations,” Sharbaugh said.

The luncheon also touched upon various activities that have already been scheduled through next year to help raise funds for the campaign. A few of the events include an Island Cinema red carpet event featuring a historic video of The Community House in January.

Nicole McHale, a board member for The Community House, said a first time event “Cooking with the Island’s Stars” is scheduled for Feb. 24, at The Community House. She said a gentleman from Orlando who does “Real Food, Real Kitchens,” a local television series, will feature an island wide cooking competition.

“You have to come and want to audition for it,” McHale said. “The winner will be featured in one of the videos and the runner up will be featured in his cookbook. It’s a great emphasis on our kitchen. We are going to have a real catering kitchen. That’s pretty exciting.”

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.