Vidalia makes plans for visitor’s center

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 4, 2003

VIDALIA &045;&045; Those who gathered Thursday for the Vidalia Riverfront Committee meeting have visions of a 23,000- to 25,000-square-foot facility with a glass entranceway, housing both state and city welcome centers.

Architect Wayne Coco met with committee and community members to discuss his thoughts and the community’s needs for the center that Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland hopes can open by fall 2004 or spring 2005.

The basics are in place. There is land designated for the center and money has been allotted by the state. Now plans must be drawn so the building can begin.

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&uot;We need to get the design process done quickly and get this thing out for bids,&uot; said Coco, who hopes to begin the bidding process at the beginning of next year.

Coco solicited questions and concerns from the small audience gathered at the Vidalia Town Hall, getting input before designing begins.

Many in attendance expressed concern about the meeting/multi-purpose room but welcomed the estimates Coco gave.

He said the facility would have a capacity of 433 people seated and 867 standing &045;&045; although most cases would be a combination of the two.

Coco told residents to really think about what they want to use the center for so it can be designed with their goals in mind.

Coco suggested a large room with a stage that can be folded back when not in use.

Alderwoman Maureen &uot;Mo&uot; Saunders whole-heartedly agreed a stage is needed.

&uot;We’ve got organizations around here, we’ve got nowhere (to have events), … so I’d like to see a stage,&uot; she said.

Copeland said the room should service all of the community’s purposes.

He said he does not feel the city needs a 500-capacity room can service many groups and conventions.

If overflow is a problem, Coco suggested the other rooms, such as the museum and exhibition could handle the problem.

Since land is at a premium, Coco said the center may have two floors.

Another problem is finding enough parking in close proximity to the center.

Copeland said he thinks the center would be able to use the medical center’s parking at night, and he will check into that with the doctors.

Using another area near the fountain is another possibility.

Coco said there will be a few parking spaces along the street for the elderly and the disabled.

There is still land to the north and south of the bridge that can be used for parking, but people may not want to walk that far to get to the new center, they said.

&uot;There are design challenges,&uot; Coco told attendees. &uot;We don’t look at them as roadblocks.&uot;

With Vidalia preparing to advertise for bids for security cameras and a portable stage, and the riverwalk set to be finished in three weeks, the center is one of the last pieces of the puzzle in developing the riverfront of Vidalia.