Pushing the project forward: Walterboro Discovery Center | News | The Press and Standard

by | September 7, 2017 5:00 pm

Last Updated: September 6, 2017 at 11:45 am

Walterboro City Council is working with Colleton County to push the plans forward for a Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary Discovery Center.
At the close of a joint city-county council session held Aug. 30 at Dogwood Hills Golf Course, members of the Colleton County Council gave a first reading to an ordinance to sell the county-owned public parking lot in the 100 block of South Jefferies Boulevard to the city at a cost of $100,000.
The proceeds from the sale of the approximately two acres of land at the southwest corner of Jefferies Boulevard and Washington Street would be paid to Colleton County Economic Development Corporation One, Inc.
The decision to have the county give the sale a first reading at the end of the joint meeting puts the city and county on the same timetable for approving the purchase agreement.
The county council requires three readings before an ordinance can be passed. The city council requires two readings before passage.
With the county’s first reading out of the way, both governing bodies can approve the purchase at their October meetings.
Although ownership of the land would change hands, Colleton County Administrator Kevin Griffin said, the property would continue to be a public parking lot.
Griffin said he believed the city’s taking over the parking lot could prove beneficial to Walterboro, as city officials continue their search for grant money to help underwrite the cost of the Discovery Center project.
Walterboro City Manager Jeff Molinari said having the parking next door to the Discovery Center will give more flexibility to the design work in the process of being finalized by the Charleston architectural firm of McMillan, Pazdan and Smith.
Prior to going into a joint executive session to discuss the proposed land sale behind closed doors, Molinari gave an update of the city’s proposal to build the Discovery Center.
In 2013, the city purchased at property at 100 S. Jefferies Blvd., the old Glover Motors building, with the idea of repurposing the building into a Discovery Center for the Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary. The building, about 7,000 square feet, sits on about 1.4 acres of land.
In 2016, the city hired the Charleston-based architectural firm of McMillan, Pazdan and Smith to handle the design of the facility.
City officials, Molinari told county council, envisioned a building exterior that would “compliment the courthouse across the street and serve as a nice bookend to the downtown, with Discovery Center on one end and the Colleton Museum and Farmers Market Commercial Kitchen on the other.”
With the city assuming ownership of the neighboring parking lot, Molinari explained, the designers are imagining a repurposing of the small parking lot on the Discovery Center site. It now has the potential of becoming a plaza and learning area for the discovery center.
“The plaza would mimic what we currently have right now at the intersection of Jefferies Boulevard and East Washington Street,” Molinari said, serving as an outdoor space to gather as well as a location for outdoor learning programs.
Inside the building, the first floor is planned with a combination of live and static exhibits as well as an office, storage and restroom facilities.
The lower level will have a large room that could double as a meeting and classroom space with access to a warming kitchen and additional storage.
The rear of the building will also have a deck overlooking what Molinari said may be the most exciting part of project — the development of an outdoor amphitheater.
The portion of the land behind the Discovery Center building has a natural slope, approximately 35 feet of fall from Jefferies Boulevard to Klein Street.
The city envisions turning that slope into an amphitheater, Molinari said, “which will be great for public performances, events related to the Rice Festival.”
“What we are looking at for this project is a comprehensive redevelopment of this parcel that will further serve as another anchor to downtown to attract people to Walterboro, to Colleton County, to shop and to visit,” Molinari said.
Currently the Discovery Center project has an estimated cost of approximately $1.5 million.
Efforts to defray the city’s cost of the project have resulted in securing four grants: Undiscovered South Carolina Grant, $200,000; South Carolina Heritage Corridor Grant, $50,000; South Carolina Competitive Grant, $50,000; and Municipal Association of South Carolina Hometown Grant, $25,000.
“We are very excited about the project. We are looking at wrapping up the design in the next couple of weeks and then putting the project out for bids this fall,” he added.
“Then, hopefully, we’ll award a contract and begin construction. We are looking at probably a 12-month construction period. We hope to be open by the end of 2018.”

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