MELBOURNE — Florida Institute of Technology President Dwayne McCay announced today that the university has come to agreement with the CEO of Northboro Builders, Inc. to purchase the Foosaner Art Museum properties located in downtown Eau Gallie. A contract has been signed with Lawrence “Larry” Jarnes, a neighbor, to buy both the museum and the adjoining Renee Foosaner Education Center. Jarnes is the owner and operator of several commercial buildings in Melbourne as well as CEO of Northboro Builders, Inc., a company dedicated to revitalizing commercial properties throughout the country, including, hotels, airports and restaurants. Both parties hope to close on the property Aug. 31 and have agreed that Florida Tech will continue to operate the museum and education center through July 2021.
“I want to build a boutique hotel on the site that can help reinvigorate the Eau Gallie Arts District downtown,” Mr. Jarnes said.
“My wife, Jeannette, and kids love the Eau Gallie area—it’s the coolest little town,” said Mr. Jarnes, who bought his nearby home six years ago and is also a member of the Eau Gallie Yacht Club. “Our vision is for an aesthetically pleasing multi-story hotel, perhaps 200 rooms, that would feature a rooftop restaurant and bar with wonderful views of the river and the ocean.”
“Larry is more than a developer,” said Irene Fonzi, a Satellite Beach real estate attorney who has worked with Jarnes through several local acquisitions. “He really wants to enhance and improve everything he sees. If a project isn’t perfect, he’s not done yet.”
“Another part of Eau Gallie I want to improve is the parking situation,” Mr. Jarnes added. “There simply isn’t enough parking for people to enjoy all the benefits and attractions the area offers. Developing a public-private partnership to address this need is high on my priority list.”
While the Foosaner Art Museum building will be removed to make way for the hotel, Jarnes anticipates transforming the education center building into flexible, shared office space.
“Larry is like an orchestra conductor,” Ms. Fonzi said. “He has a gift for listening to the voices of the community and uniting them with his own vision and the ideas of his hotel partners to create something really beautiful. I think everyone in Melbourne will be excited about the outcome.”
Florida Tech leaders said they believe this outcome will have positive benefits for the community.
“We reviewed several offers and ultimately felt that Mr. Jarnes’ vision for the property was best for all involved,” said Mr. McCay. “We wish him every success.”
The university retains the museum art collection and is still seeking a suitable arrangement to display it or donate it when the museum closes next year.
Florida Tech acquired the former Brevard Art Museum in 2011 after a $1 million gift from the Foosaner Foundation and Dee Negroni-Hendrick. Upon taking ownership of the museum, the university spent approximately $1.8 million to bring its facilities up to code. Since Florida Tech took over operations of the museum, the university has spent more than $7 million to keep it open.
Alicya Simmons of JM Real Estate, Inc., is the university’s realtor and Cassandra Hartford of Curri – Kirchner Real Estate Group LLC is the buyer’s realtor for this transaction.