It has been years since one could hear the sound of basketballs bouncing off the hardwood and swooshing into nets in the old gymnasium at Endeavor, the property upon which the old Dozier School for Boys once operated.
Some are hoping that Jackson County Commissioners consider keeping the bleachers intact and, in renovating the gym as a new multi-purpose convention center, keep in mind the possibility of designing the changes in a way that the space could still accommodate games from time to time.
The hope there is that it might draw families and players to the county for tournaments and thereby contribute to the economy, said one individual, Ronstance Pittman, who expressed that hope during a recent Commission meeting where the board heard a general plan for moving forward with the convention center and the museum that’s being planned for the old Dozier cafeteria across the road from the gym.
Commissioners didn’t comment on that proposal, but the matter could be put to the new steering committee that the board appointed to get things going at Endeavor. That big job will be a multi-year effort, with many decisions yet to be made along the way.
However there are three big elements already accepted as probable lynchpins of the property’s future: In addition to the gym and cafeteria renovation, the county wants to establish a center for individuals with autism who are aging out of the school system and trying to establish their lives as independent adults. There’s also a housing component to Endeavor. Commissioners are considering, among other things, trying to find a developer to build out a neighborhood mixed with autistic individuals, seniors and others, and to establish affordable housing options on some of the acreage available on the Endeavor property.
The Tourist Development Council is working in tandem with the county board to outline the Endeavor plans, and its Executive Director Christy Andreasen presented a working document on the project this week to Commissioners that focused on the convention center and the museum.
The following is a general outline of key elements in that document.
Phase One objective: Develop engineering and architectural plans by December of this year to bring facilities up to code, and identify what’s need to meet the needs of consumers in the mixed-us spaces at Endeavor associated with the convention center and museum. The focus would first be on the convention center since the gym is in much better shape than the cafeteria, and the steering committee is tasked with seeing this objective through, with an ultimate goal of having shelf-ready plans that make the museum and convention center projects ready for the construction bid process.
Phase One was broken down into timelines:
Between Sept. 15-October 2: Determine the crowd-capacity limits for the two spaces, decide on how they’ll be used, and identify potential clients that could be recruited to use them. David Melvin Engineering was identified as the party that would provide the actual square footage determination of each facility and recommend capacity limits for each potential use under the multi-use scenario. Marianna’s fire marshal would also be consulted on maximum occupancies and what would need to be in place to accommodate.
As for identifying potential users, steering committee members would reach out to in-state meeting planners and other organizations to determine their needs as potential users, and build a potential client list based on their findings. Outreach and marketing would continue with identified possible users.
The target date of Oct. 2 for completion of these tasks would be followed by various reviews, with the county commission/TDC reviewing on Oct. 13 for possible formal adoption of the element.
Between Oct. 5 and Oct. 20: The steering committee would focus on determining which amenities are needed for the gym and cafeteria in their new lives as convention center and museum, with the amenities being list based on information received from residents, visitors and consumers.
The types of amenities would include interior pieces like audio-visual equipment, infrastructure like heating and air conditioning units, and needed technology upgrades.
The committee would also work out a general plan for how transition from one event to another would be carried out most efficiently, as needs would vary from group to group in the space
The group would also address the factors regarding the museum exhibit at this time, with the county expecting some permanent and some transient exhibits to be part of the mix. The team would also decide on furnishings that will be needed for both facilities, along with internal and external amenities, kitchen and office space, storage and connectivity issues.
The goal is to have these elements determined to the degree that the county/TDC could review the plan by Oct. 27 of this year.
Between Oct. 20-30: The committed would partner with individuals and groups that have historic information about the community so that it could identify and catalogue artifacts that might eventually be set up in the museum, and that would aid in creating a history and “storyline” of the project, the document states. This work is expected to be then complete for county/TDC review on Nov. 10 of this year.
Between Nov. 2-13: During this period, the steering committee would be identifying funding sources to help build out the projects envisioned for the convention center and museum. They’ll explore public funding sources, grant opportunities and public-private partnerships and non-profit options. The committee members will be asked to, as they’re identifying the potential funding sources, take into account the need for operations and maintenance costs that will be continuing needs long after construction is complete.
The committee will also be asked to establish a marketing plan at this time for the two facilities, and to identify how success in their operations will be measured.
Their work in this section of the task is expected to be ready for county/TDC review by Dec. 8.
Between Nov. 16-Dec. 31: Community meetings, revisions and final planning on Phase I objectives would occur during this period of time, although all meetings of the steering committee fall under the Sunshine Law and are therefore open to the public from the start.
A final public meeting will be held to allow the general public to review and recommend changes to the plan created by the steering committee. The final plans would then be adopted by the steering committee and presented to the TDC and county for final review and adoption.
Between Dec. 8-31: All involved agencies would conduct their final reviews. No specific date was included as to the county/TDC final review.
Phase Two would commence in the following year, a period in which construction bids would be taken, funding sources approached, and management decisions would be made and boards of directors for each facility would be appointed.
A Phase Three is also planned, in which staffing would be determined and acquired to operate the convention center and museum. The third phase would also include securing museum artifacts and attracting transient display providers, marketing the convention center and museum generally, and developing the museum displays as well as planning outreach to school systems to establish potential ongoing tours for students to the museum.
Phase Four would constitute the continual assessment of activities and programs associated with the convention center and the museum.
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