Selma Interpretive Center design plans in the making

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 20, 2007


Representatives from the National Park Service in Denver toured the future site of the Selma Interpretive Center on Thursday, saying six months from now residents can see a conceptual rendering of the estimated $20 million tourist attraction.

Mayor James Perkins Jr. told designers he would like to see it developed into &8220;something along the lines of the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham.&8221;

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Todd D. Alexander, U.S. Department of the Interior branch chief, design & construction, and Bonita J. Mueller, the project manager who will see the project through from concept to reality, photographed and made notes of the Water Avenue and Broad Street location. Jim Hearney, program manager of the Lowndes County Interpretive Center, joined in the tour.

Mueller said when they checked into the St. James Hotel, from just chatting she could tell the community had and interest in getting the project completed.

Perkins also said parking would be critical, pointing to a tour bus parked in Water Avenue letting passengers off in front of the National Voting Rights Museum. Accompanied by Patti Sexton and Charlotte Griffeth of the Planning & Development office, Perkins said they have been proceeding with the vision since 1998.

Plans will transform the dilapidated corner into an interactive state-of-the-art 30,000 square-foot tourist destination. The Selma center will serve as a link in the National Historic Trail, which follows the path marchers took in 1965 seeking the right to vote. The center will highlight Selma’s contribution to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, organizers said.

The process has been arduous, but underway. The city has secured funding to relocate utilities underground, and an engineering firm hired for the &8220;investigative stabilization,&8221; which determined the buildings were safe to proceed. Alexander said there was potential there.

Perkins asked designers keep city officials informed through &8220;a time table.&8221; The total cost of the project will be determined from the plans. Griffeth said they have applied for an additional $2.9 million through &8220;the National Park Service Centennial Challenge Funding.&8221;