The latest plan to renovate the 1927 Boynton Beach High School building appears to be dead and buried, but the building just might be brought back to life by eons-old bones.
At its last meeting, on June 20, the city commission all but killed an ambitious project headed by Lake Worth architect Juan Contin for a $4.5 million conversion of the building to an events and destination center.
At Tuesday’s meeting, members heard from one of those who’d pitched for the property before the city went with Contin: Rudolph Pascucci Jr., director of the 9-year-old nonprofit Palm Beach Museum of Natural History.
The museum, actually based in Fort Lauderdale, is a collection of 9,000 square feet worth of traveling history exhibits, focusing on but not limited to Florida and the Caribbean, and from pioneer days to ancient peoples to the dinosaurs.
It has no home.
“I have 900 boxes in a warehouse,” he told the commission.
Pascucci had approached the city back in December 2011, without result.
Pascucci said Tuesday he and a crew were on their way to South Dakota and their truck was in the city hall parking lot. He said he’d delayed his departure a day to appeal to the board.
“We are not interested in owning the building. We are not in the real estate business,” Pascucci said.
He said his group does not want to make any changes to the building either; “it looks fine. It makes a magnificent museum.”
And, he said, “we don’t have to take several months to do a marketing plan.” Referring commissioners to the presentation he made in 2011, he said, “you will find the attendance figures. You will find other material. It’s ready to go.”
Pascucci had said in 2011 that the two main floors “lend themselves perfectly to galleries” and said he envisioned a gift shop, lectures, research projects and visits by as many as 50,000 visitors a year, 20,000 of them schoolchildren, from across Florida and the nation.
“We are drawing international attention here. People want to come and visit us. I have no place to bring them,” Pascucci said. “Please let me bring them to Boynton Beach.”
That prompted Commissioner Joe Casello to quip, “A Boynton Beach Jurassic Park.”
The building, across from city hall and vacant for decades, has been the subject of numerous failed revitalization attempts. Contin’s was the first that proposed using private money. But commissioners grew frustrated as Contin remained protective about investors and their identities and miscommunications arose about who would own the building and pay permit fees.
Mayor Jerry Taylor has proposed razing the building and replacing it with a city hall complex.
In a March 2011 survey of 173 respondents, more than 80 percent said they wanted the school turned into an active destination. Four in 10 said they’d support raising taxes “for the right project.”