FLORENCE — Florence-Lauderdale tourism officials will open bids at the end of the month to build a visitors center and office complex in McFarland Park.
Libby Jordan, director of cultural tourism for the tourism office, told the City Council on Tuesday that construction should begin in late March, with an opening sometime in the fall.
The $2 million project will be paid for with lodging tax collections. Jordan said the tourism board will adhere to a strict budget.
“We have set aside $10,000 a month to repay the debt,” she said. “We intend to pay off the debt very quickly. If this goes over budget, we will start cutting.”
The tourism board’s charter prohibits it from borrowing money, but not repaying a debt. So, the City Council set up a special board to borrow and disburse the money, with tourism repaying the debt.
During the council’s work session, Jordan showed a computer-animated tour of the interior of the office. The main lobby is the largest part of the building and will be used to display items that reflect the area’s history and culture, and highlight tourist attractions using iPads that can be easily reprogrammed with new audio and images.
A small theater and conference room will be a part of the complex, as well. Jordan said the site, which is the site of the old pro shop for the former golf course, will be built up a foot above the 500-year flood level.
Bob Whitten, the architect for the new facility, said he incorporated elements of local landmarks and history in his design. They include Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired elements seen in the Rosenbaum house, stucco that resembles the building material that was used in Native American abodes, and tall, exposed timbers that reflect the grove of pine trees in McFarland Park. He also said the facility will take advantage of natural lighting to make it more energy efficient.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.