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Pine Island Chamber to rebuild welcome center

By Staff | Oct 9, 2012

The Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce will rebuild a new welcome center on the same property of its last structure, with a tentative ground-breaking date set for early next year.

A fire destroyed the old chamber building, which was built in 1967, on Friday, Jan. 13.

“We are looking to build right on the old spot, in the footprints of the old building,” Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce President John Paeno said. “I’m excited that we are moving forward and receiving so much help from the community.”

Although the chamber has not received too much more in terms of donations for their building fund, Paeno said they have received a lot of professional volunteer assistance to help design the place, which is worth a small fortune.

“Pine Island is an awesome place and the people there are fantastic,” he said.

Right now the chamber is currently seeking someone who could offer fill for the property, as well as individuals who would like to volunteer their services and materials for the project.

“Any participation like that of members is very much appreciated,” said Pat Hutchinson, who sits on the chamber’s board of directors and is the chairman of the building committee.

The planning stages have begun for the Chamber of Commerce and a preliminary perspective has been designed for the structure.

Hutchinson said they currently have an engineer design consultant from St. James City, Jim Schivinski, who has graciously agreed to do the engineering for the building.

Schivinski, PE of Engineering & Design Consultants Inc., said he provided the chamber with his service because he is a resident of Pine Island.

“I think it is our duty,” he said of helping. “My office is on Pine Island, so it seemed very logical to do that.”

Hutchinson said there is a large-scale rendering of the new structure located inside the chamber for individuals to view.

“The building style is very old Florida,” she said.

Schivinski said it is going to be rustic island architecture with an elevated cross-space and metal roof. He said there will be a greeting center at the center of the building, an office for the director on the right hand side and a small kitchen to the left of the building.

“It’s a look-through concept,” he said of the design. “So you can look through to the back.”

Two porches – in both the front and back – will also be included in the new chamber building. Hutchinson said they hope to build a garden toward the back of the property for people to sit and read the material they found. The front porch, Hutchinson said, will also provide a destination for people to sit and read and look through brochures as well.

“Our hope is to accomplish more than a welcome center,” she said, because that just implies the structure is for tourists. “It is an information center for everyone on the island – one-stop shopping.”

Hutchinson said the building will also be elevated four feet to meet the flood plane requirements. She said the interior of the building will have vaulted ceilings and plenty of space, particularly wall space to display brochures.

The displays will lean towards the different villages on the island, Hutchinson said, so St. James City, Bokeelia and Matlacha’s information is located in one place. She said that will help individuals see what is available in those different locations.

The building, Paeno said, is going to be a green building, an ecological and environmentally friendly structure.

“We really want to make this a demonstration of environmental responsibility,” Hutchinson said of the building.

She said they are pursing grants and looking at alternative energy sources like solar to include in the new structure.

Since the property is zoned agricultural, the chamber was grandfathered in with a special exception that will allow them to build the structure back to the same size or smaller than the old building.

“It is just slightly less than the old building,” Hutchinson said in terms of the square footage.

Since the chamber is still in the permitting and contracting stages, officials believe they will break ground in early 2013 for the new Welcome Center.