Grant helps create cultural hub

Grant helps create cultural hub

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Sunset Lounge was, at one time, the place to be in West Palm Beach's Northwest section of town.

Just inside their doors, acts like Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald once graced the stage.

Now the City of West Palm Beach is setting the stage for the next generation by taking the historic Sunset Lounge will soon be taken back in time to its hay day in the 1930's and 1940's.

"The upstairs was converted to apartments sometime in the 1970's," explained executive director of the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, John Ward. "The ballroom doesn't exist today. We're going to go in and demolish the apartments and then restore the ballroom itself. Then it can be used for public meetings, reunions, wedding receptions; in addition to being a high quality performance space."

Across the street is a park, and thanks to a grant, the city will be asking the people in the neighborhood what they want to see there.

"The Redevelopment Agency going to fund most of the hard cost for the physical restoration work," Ward said. "We recently won a Knight Cities Foundation grant for $171,000. And those funds will be used for civic engagement and community outreach."

The goal is to preserve the culture and history which is the backbone of the project. Andrea Atwell lives near the Sunset Lounge and says she's looking forward to the changes the city is planning including the renovated jazz hall, a bed and breakfast and new park.

"This area that were in right now is not only is it known for this club, but it's a very historical and I love that," Atwell detailed. And she already has some ideas on who should play when the Sunset Lounge reopens. "Aw man! Erykah Badu. Jill Scott. Kim. A lot of jazz and blues."

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