With the exterior component of the Saban Center gathering along the banks of the Black Warrior River, city officials are moving forward with a plan to redesign The Tuscaloosa News building to become the centerpiece of the facility. proposed interactive learning.

A $2.9 million project management contract for the Saban Center is set to be awarded Tuesday by the Tuscaloosa City Council to mobile consulting firm Volkert Inc.

City officials said Volkert and its partner in the project, The Projects Group of Fort Worth, Texas, were chosen from among seven respondents to the city’s qualifying application.

“This is an exciting first step in making the Saban Center a reality,” said Kevin Turner, the engineering environmental compliance coordinator at the Tuscaloosa City Engineer’s Office.

Continued: Saban Center Park is on track to open Fall 2022 in Tuscaloosa

The $2.9 million award keeps Volkert and The Projects Group for more than three years — a total of 40 months, depending on the contract — to oversee the planning, design, concept, programming and construction of the future home of the Children’s Hands-On Museum and the Tuscaloosa Children’s Theater.

Volkert representatives said the Saban Center will take place in four phases – pre-construction and capital planning, pre-construction/design, construction and post-construction – with Volkert and The Projects Group overseeing every step and every dollar of the process.

“We will account for every penny spent on the project,” said Leon Barkan, Volkert’s chief operating officer and senior design manager for the Saban Center.

Volkert, which has extensive experience developing and designing educational facilities — it has been involved with 29 school systems in just 23 Alabama counties, the company said — and The Projects Group, which has helped 27 projects of museums and theaters to meet in six states, are expected to begin work by April 1.

The Saban Center itself is expected to be substantially complete by July 2025.

Continued: The state-of-the-art Saban Center will not include the Tuscaloosa Public Library Branch

But how much will cost to overhaul the facilities of The Tuscaloosa News, which the city of Tuscaloosa bought from the newspaper’s former owners for $8 million in 2019, is yet to be determined.

That, Volkert officials said, would be known once the final design, construction and programming – the features that will be offered inside the facility – have been decided.

“We really can’t talk about budget now,” said Jonathan Grammer, Volkert’s assistant vice president and Saban Center project manager. “We need time to review everything.”

Achieving this will require hiring additional professional firms to handle requirements and services such as architecture and design, environmental and traffic surveys and studies, among others.

The Volkert team will also provide regular updates to city officials on the Saban Center design and projected costs – both initial construction and ongoing lifecycle expenditures – as well as periodic reviews with groups that should use the center.

After years of planning, construction began last year on River District Park, the outdoor component of the highly anticipated Saban Center that Mayor Walt Maddox described as a gateway to western Tuscaloosa.

“More than just a park, River District Park will be a gateway to western Tuscaloosa,” the mayor said in October. “With Elevate Tuscaloosa, we are making substantial improvements to the function, flow and design of this area.

“By the time the Saban Center opens, this area will be the perfect home for him.”

Currently under construction along the Black Warrior River between the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater and Hotel Indigo, River District Park will include an open green space, river viewing areas, multi-purpose plaza, performance stage, pavilion and lighting with a pathway connected to the Tuscaloosa River Promenade.

A $7.4 million contract to build River District Park was approved in September by the Tuscaloosa City Council, and it’s now on track to open in the fall of 2022.

River District Park is intended to serve as an outdoor extension of the Saban Center, a new state-of-the-art interactive learning center that will offer science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs, theater and outdoor recreation, and allow for coordinated indoor and outdoor programming for children.

The Saban Center is supposed to occupy what is now The Tuscaloosa News building, converting the 100,000 square foot complex into what is proposed as the new home of the Children’s Hands-On Museum and Tuscaloosa Children’s Theater, and will connect to the park via a pedestrian bridge over Jack Warner Parkway.

Contact Jason Morton at [email protected].