LAKELAND, Fla. -- The debate over moving a confederate monument in Lakeland has brought to the forefront the cultural divide in the city. 

  • Cultural enrichment center proposed for Lakeland
  • Center could be at building on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Pear Street
  • City staff estimated the initial costs would be $1.1 million

One resident, Dr. Sallie Brisbane, hopes to bridge the gap by opening and running a cultural enrichment center. She sees it as an opportunity to bring together people of all walks of life so they can learn about each other.

"There has to be a bridge for cultures to merge and what emerges is art in many different forms,” explained Dr. Sallie Brisbane.  "You would see exhibits, you would see artwork, you would see spoken word, you would see black box theater.” 

Local artist Kent McAllister likes the idea. He’s been painting for 25 years but hasn’t had the resources to open his own gallery and pursue art full-time. 

"I need the space and I can't afford the space,” said Kent McAllister.  

Brisbane has pitched her idea to city officials. 

On Tuesday, Commissioner Phillip Walker proposed to the other commissioners something similar except more historical in nature.

He proposed putting the center in a vacant building at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Pear Street.

City staff estimated the initial costs would be $1.1 million. That included purchasing the building, renovating it, and making it accessible to people with disabilities. The two story building would need an elevator added to it. 

“I don't think it's that unobtainable. We have high price tags for other things here in our city and I think this is one that will help support what we are and what we need to know about, our cultures,” said Phillip Walker. 

During Wednesday’s budget planning session, other commissioners suggested putting the center in the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce building after the organization moves out.

The commission decided to discuss the matter in more detail during a future workshop session. A date hasn’t been set. The commission also decided at this point not to allocate funds for it in the fiscal year 2019 budget. 

Wherever the cultural center is located in Lakeland, Dr. Brisbane said she wants to be a part of it. 

McAllister is praying it happens sooner than later. 

"I hope this dream someone has comes true and I hope it comes soon because I am getting older,” McAllister said.