Discovery Park plans on track for 2012 opening
Posted: Monday, October 4, 2010 9:11 pm
By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
The goal: smiling faces.
Discovery Park of America’s director of marketing and communications Larry Snider of Martin shared the vision of the Kirkland Foundation for its multi-million dollar project Thursday evening and was rewarded with a room full of just the reaction the projects’ planners are looking for.
The occasion was the annual Obion County Joint Economic Development Council banquet at Hampton Centré in Union City. Snider and Robert Kirkland, whose family foundation is responsible for the bulk of the 50-acre education-entertainment-tourism complex planned for Union City’s northwest quadrant between Everett Boulevard and under-construction I-69, were the guest speakers.
Snider acknowledged that two years ago, DPA had presented the program at the banquet with the project’s first architect on hand to discuss his vision. Soon thereafter, problems developed and the relationship between the foundation and the architectural firm ended.
Early this year, Verner Johnson Museum Architects and Planners of Boston came on board, along with Thinc™ exhibit design team from New York, landscape architects from Ritchie Smith Associates in Memphis and design builders from Maltbie Exhibits of Mount Laurel, N.J. Progress has been steady, creative and exciting since then, members of the projects’ board of directors say.
“We’re in a far better place today,” Snider said. “DPA is a definite challenge. It’s difficult to communicate emotion and feeling, but we’re well on the way.”
Snider brought along a slide show of the DPA site and the various projects planned for each area; detailed sketches of the park’s centerpiece building, Discovery Center; and exciting visualization of the many exhibits planned and the imaginative ways they will be presented. He noted that site work will begin again in just a few weeks and construction of the center should start in March, with late 2012 as a goal for completion of the project’s first phase.
Snider also noted that the undertaking offers multiple opportunities for local business and industry to become involved and to benefit themselves and their employees.
“Do you understand the value of this gift — the benefits it will bring to the region?” he asked the audience. Praising the community as a great place to live and work, he added that DPA will make it even more impressive, with particular emphasis on four areas:
• Education. With 60,000 feet of exhibit space, Discovery Center offers boundless and ever-changing opportunities for children, youth and adults to expand their knowledge base in remarkable ways. The University of Tennessee at Martin is already involved in planning and Dyersburg State Community College wants to come on board, as well, he added.
• Boosting the area’s image and reputation to get the attention of the business world. Snider noted that Union City and DPA have already been selected as the northern anchor for the prestigious Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee Inc. and said Tennessee’s tourism board is excited about the prospects. “DPA will be marketed widely and will attract visitors from all over who will spend money. That means lots of tax money.”
• Jobs. Estimates are that about 30 jobs will open up at DPA, but another 100 could become available because of new businesses opening in proximity to, and because of, the project along I-69.
• Quality of life. Multiple event venues are a part of the project and will enhance life for area citizens in a variety of both direct and indirect ways.
Snider continued his challenge to local citizens by asking if they are prepared to make the concept even better for Union City, Obion County and the region.
“DPA presents a wonderful opportunity. You can just let it happen or you can leverage it into something even better. There are lots of opportunities, ranging from building a business to working with the project itself. DPA will be incredible. You can make it even more incredible by ‘building’ on it.”
Kirkland offered praise for the many advantages already available in this area and said when he retired, he and his wife realized they could make lots of choices about the future — including where they wanted to live in a world they had explored widely through years of travel in this country and abroad. He said both were in complete agreement that there was nowhere in that world they preferred to Obion County.
His challenge to the banquet guests was to consider new methods of bringing prosperity to the area. He suggested prospects ranging from building up the county as a prime retirement community (“it’s non-polluting, recession-proof and doesn’t demand an increase in funding for new schools”) to capitalizing on the region’s location within 24 hours of truck travel from all businesses east of the Rocky Mountains to make it a transportation hub.
“We need to look toward things like I-69 and use our location to improve our quality of life,” he noted.
His praise for local educational opportunities was generous and Kirkland added that this could truly be a “shining city on the hill.”
“We could influence the rest of the world in our belief that it is possible to educate and mentor young people so they don’t drop out and don’t end up on welfare,” he added.
Kevin Herrell, Obion County Chamber of Commerce president, was the master of ceremonies for the evening. He was able to boast of 15 new members this year for the Chamber of Commerce, sending their numbers to 353. Dan Weber, president of the Obion County Industrial Development Corporation, closed out the event.
Jim Rippy, president of DPA board of directors and chairman of the JEDC, also addressed the guests and called their attention to an impressive list of 19 projects currently under way in Obion County.
Among these are the construction of I-69 and upcoming right-of-way purchases for the four-laning of Highway 45, improvements at the Everett-Stewart Regional Airport, expansion of area buisnesses such as Pioneer’s research facility, the opening of new retail development and multiple prospects for the city’s spec building in the industrial park, plus the continuing work on, or completion of, several highway projects.
Mrs. Caudle may be contacted at glendcaudle @ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 10.01.10