Updates: St. Pete's new museum, Scientologists' parties, Ehrlich's farewell

click to enlarge Architects' rendering of the proposed museum. - TWO ROSES FOUNDATION
Two Roses Foundation
Architects' rendering of the proposed museum.

click to enlarge Architects' rendering of the proposed museum. - TWO ROSES FOUNDATION
Two Roses Foundation
Architects' rendering of the proposed museum.
  • Two Roses Foundation
  • Architects' rendering of the proposed museum.

A Florida entrepreneur is bypassing Tampa for St. Petersburg to build a downtown museum featuring $60 million worth of furnishings, metalwork, prints and other items from the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century.

Rudy Ciccarello’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement will be developed at 333 Third Ave. The addition is a coup for city arts supporters.

The downtown already has well-regarded museums that include the Dalì, Fine Arts and Chihuly Collection, among others. Supporters are saying that the new museum will fit in well with St. Petersburg's collection of craftsman homes in nearby neighborhoods that include Kenwood and Roser Park.

Alberto Alfonso, who designed the Beach Drive space for the Chihuly Collection, is the architect tapped for the new museum, which will be a three-story, 90,000-square-foot complex with gallery space, restaurant, children's education center, museum shop and artists’ studios. It will occupy a 3.5-acre site.

Ciccarello previously had proposed building his museum at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park but reached an impasse with city officials over financial incentives.

Ciccarello is bankrolling the St. Petersburg development, according to the Tampa Bay Times, but also is seeking grants and donations for the museum, which will support school tours and workshops on arts and crafts.

Ciccarello is a business executive and entrepreneur who founded Florida Infusion Services, a distributor of drugs and medical supplies. But he has a passion for the Arts and Crafts period of the early 1900s.

He set up the Two Red Roses Foundation to support acquiring and restoring examples of the period for exhibition and public view. The museum is projected to be built by 2016.

Scientology's weekend getaway: Thousands of Scientologists are hoping to spend Thanksgiving weekend in Florida, if Clearwater approves a special permit for a private gathering of the church’s powerful fundraising arm.

The International Association of Scientologists usually meets yearly in England but is trying to organize a beachfront stay this year in the Sunshine State.

About 8,000 Scientologists would attend the downtown meeting from Nov. 29-Dec. 1, which will be held in a giant temporary tent already erected off Court Street, along a route to Clearwater Beach.

The Scientologists are asking for the city to close off some streets around the tent for their get-together.

But the city and the Church of Scientology are in a dispute over a shrink-wrap sign that has been placed on the five-story tent, which has giant gold letters and a logo. At 150,000 square feet, the tent is hard to miss.

The city has ordered the sign to come down, but the Church of Scientology has refused on religious grounds. The case will come before the code enforcement board on Nov. 20.

The city also is placing conditions on the opening of the group’s new Flags Building, scheduled for Nov. 15.

City officials have indicated that the organization needs to comply with its requests before it can take action on the permit for the international meeting.

Ehrlich exits race: Democrat Jessica Ehrlich has exited the race for the late U.S. Rep. Bill Young’s seat.

Ehrlich’s announcement Wednesday follows news that fellow Democrat Alex Sink, Florida’s former chief financial officer, will run for the office. Sink already has received support from the influential EMILY’s List and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Although Ehrlich did not mention Sink’s entry into the special election, Ehrlich lacked the same level of financial backing and party support.

“I want to thank my amazing staff, donors and volunteers for everything they have done for our campaign,” Ehrlich said in a statement. “In particular, I would like to thank the hardworking men and women of the labor movement who have supported my fight for Florida’s middle-class families.”

Republican David Jolly, an attorney and former Young aide, also has said he will run.

Gov. Rick Scott has announced the primary date as Jan. 14, with the general election on March 11, 2014.

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