Wanna rent a museum? Pinellas County's now-empty Gulf Coast Museum of Art

Back when the Gulf Coast Museum of Art welcomed visitors to Largo's Pinewood Cultural Park, a lazy Saturday afternoon could be spent visiting the museum and touring the adjacent Florida Botanical Gardens. Taking in a Theo Wujcik retrospective or the museum's impressive permanent collection of Florida artists, then strolling amid the bromeliads and cacti? It was a tourism board's dream.

But in January of 2009, the museum closed its doors to visitors, a victim of its own dire financial straits. Exhibits and art classes came to a halt, and soon its modern, light-filled building, designed by Charles Rose architects of Boston — a sublime space to behold art — stood empty. Later that year, the permanent collection found a new home at the Florida International Museum at St. Petersburg College.

Now, Pinellas county government would like to hear what you would do with the 11-year-old, 60,000-square-foot museum complex — especially if you happen to be non-profit organization that can afford to lease the space from the county. In addition to exhibition spaces and administrative offices, the building's features include art studios and classrooms, two photography darkrooms, a climate-controlled storage vault, gift shop and café facilities, and an auditorium.

Barring the emergence of an ideal tenant, county officials hope that the public outreach will generate creative ideas for how to put the complex into use again as a community space, says Dave DelMonte of Pinellas County Real Estate Management.

To find out more or submit your ideas, contact the county's real estate department at 727-464-3496.

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