Sarasota is synonymous with culture, elegance and luxury. As more people discover the city’s secret, the need has grown for a grand establishment that epitomizes this distinguished spirit. Enter The Ora, a 30,000-square-foot premier event venue.  “The idea for The Ora started about three to four years ago when the board of the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, who funded and founded the project, realized what a need there was in Sarasota for a venue like this,” says Deanna McGrath, the director of operations for The Ora. “A lot of the board members had lifecycle events of their own that needed space, and many are on other boards of large companies or foundations in Sarasota and realized how much of a lack there was of venues that can accommodate the size that The Ora can.”

FleischmanGarciaMaslowski Architecture and Tandem Construction helped bring this standalone venue—with five distinct sections and a 3,000-square-foot commercial-grade kitchen occupied by catering partner Michael’s On East—to life. The Ballroom, a 10,000-square-foot space, is The Ora’s crown jewel. “While 10,000 square feet is so desirable, not everyone wants that large of a space. Some people want a venue that can only accommodate 100 to 150 people, so we designed it to be separated into three different sections,” McGrath adds. “Huge airwalls can go across the ballroom and divide it, and there are specific doors that will only allow you to enter the section where you want to go. It’s about as soundproof as you can get, and each section has its own projector and 150-inch screen that drops down for people to use.” Acrylic light sculptures that hang and are lit from the ceiling add an extra touch of sophistication to all three of the room’s compartments.

Photography by Wyatt Kostygan

Another section is the Terrace Room, which can seat about 180 guests and is connected to the Plaza—an outdoor garden space. “You’ll be able to walk out of the Terrace Room onto our Plaza, and we’ll have a courtyard space past that. It will be protected by two large shade sails, which are mostly for sun protection but will also help if the climate gets a little unpredictable,” says McGrath. The impressive Lobby, which can serve as a pre-function space, employs projection mapping by Enlightened Monkey Arts to create an immersive experience. “You can use the projection mapping up on the walls to transform the space into anything you’d like it to be,” she adds. “It’s a moving background, almost like virtual reality.” Like the Lobby, the Gallery lends itself to enhanced flexibility. Able to hold about 100 guests, it is ideal for more intimate events like cocktail hours or high-end dinners. Clients can hang works of art on the walls and use the track lights to spotlight specific areas or objects while dimming the rest of the lights. 

While functionality played a key role in The Ora’s design, its aesthetics represent countless hours of deliberation. “We worked with an interior company called FGM, and they have been so helpful in choosing everything from the light art sculptures in the Ballroom to the large light art in the Lobby,” McGrath says, noting that the team spent a great deal of time selecting the carpet, landing on a neutral choice with blues, beiges and a slight silver tone. “Everything is elegant, and that was the tone of the concept throughout the entire plan. It was supposed to be a place for high-end events and people who wanted a luxurious experience,” she adds. “One of the reasons that we partnered with Michael’s On East for catering is that they do the same. They offer an exceptional service, and that’s what The Ora is designed to do.”