June 22, 2010 11:40:00 AM
A prime downtown Columbus city block could become a major visitor destination, if a Columbus businessman and the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau have their way.
The CVB board of directors Monday accepted an offer from Dispatch Publisher Birney Imes to provide funds for a nationally recognized landscape architect to design a proposed art park for Columbus.
And the board voted to use Mississippi State University students to design a "scope of work" or project description to aid the architect.
In March, the Columbus City Council voted to declare surplus and donate to the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation property off Main Street, between Rex''s Rentals and the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center, to be used for an art park.
The landscape project could encompass the land next to Rex''s Rentals, the Welcome Center and the building under construction that will house the CVB offices.
CVB and other officials recently have been discussing placing a garage -- on the walls of which Columbus-born Disney artist Josh Meador did two early sketches -- at the site of the art park, which CVB Director James Tsismanakis noted now would be located along the parking lot that serves the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center.
Imes Monday sent Tsismanakis an e-mail indicating his desire to "help facilitate" the park as a "destination place" by helping provide the fees for a nationally recognized landscape architect.
Tsismanakis noted Imes is against the idea of locating the Meador garage at the art park, but favors making it "bigger and more prestigious" in a different building, to be determined.
"I was excited when Birney offered to do this, because this is not an inexpensive undertaking," said David Sanders, a member of the CVB board. "He''s genuinely interested in this project."
The board discussed choosing an architect and how the organization might conduct a nationwide search.
The board unanimously voted to authorize Sanders, a local attorney, to prepare a bill of sale for the garage, which is located on Columbus'' historic Northside, with the stipulation the CVB Foundation has the right to move the garage, if the house is sold, within 90 days of the sale.
The board also voted to ask MSU to perform a "scope of work" describing the project, with measurements for the benefit of an architect, and to accept Imes'' offer, "with great appreciation," for the CVB to engage a landscape architect to develop the green space for the art park, at Imes'' expense.
"It all sounds wonderful," said CVB board member Whirllie Byrd.
Construction on the art park must begin within about 21 months or the property reverts back to the city.
In other matters, the board:
Event organizer Brenda Caradine earlier asked for $25,000, but was informed the board, last year, voted to cap allocations for the event at $20,000. Events this year will be held Sept. 6-12.
Ground was broken May 3 at the site of the new three-story building, located at the corner of College Street and Third Avenue South, behind the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center.
In addition to the CVB, which will occupy about 4,000 square feet on the first floor of the building, the $2 million, 24,000-square-foot building will house various offices on the first floor and condominiums on the second floor.
Construction is expected to be complete in about nine months.
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