New Florence parking deck

Local News

Brooke J. Freundschuh, Managing Editor

Plans have been drawn and land has been designated for a new parking deck to be built on the corner of Pine Street and Tombigbee Street in downtown Florence. 

Parking has been cited as an issue for both residents and visitors of Florence for many years, and with each year, the current downtown parking deck becomes more dilapidated and ill fit for use. Calvin Durham of Lambert Ezell Durham Architecture drew the design with the assistance of Jason Tucker. “The new parking deck will be basically centered in the downtown area on Court Street,” Durham said.

The firm did not have to participate in a bidding process to get the job of drawing the plans, because special services are not required to be bid on by state law. 

Durham explains that the parking deck is only the first project in a series of projects that will be completed in four phases, the first of which is the building of this new deck. The second phase will be to demolish the existing parking deck downtown. In the third phase, a new City Hall building, also designed by Durham, will be built across the street from the old parking deck, in front of the municipal building that currently stands. The existing city hall will then be demolished after it is vacated. Lastly, in a fourth phase, another new parking deck will be built next to the city hall for municipal use by city employees who work within city hall or are visiting on business. 

However, this plan will be several years in the making. This project has been in the works since early 2020. Durham estimates that by the beginning of April, a bid will open for the labor on the parking deck. 

“We will put the project up for bid and probably give them four to six weeks to bid it,” Durham said. “We’ll open the bids probably at the end of May.”

Durham estimates that the first phase of the process will begin this summer, but take approximately 12 months to complete. Durham assures that the new parking deck will be a vast improvement from the current one. 

“The old one is falling apart,” Durham said. “The money to put into it is just basically going into a black hole. It’s outlived it’s timespan and the concrete is deteriorating.”

A major factor in the design of the new parking deck is safety. Durham describes the current downtown parking deck as being in a “serpentine” pattern, in which the driver must snake through the spaces to find a spot. In the new parking deck, the design will be circular. He explains that the design will be simple and accessible, similar to how the UNA student parking deck is built. 

The new deck will also feature service poles with buttons that alert police in the instance of a crime occurring. The staircases will be in an open design to prevent someone from being able to be trapped in them. The parking spaces are also wider to avoid accidents.

The Florence Police department has reviewed all of Durham’s plans to ensure safety. Durham also shares that he faced challenges in designing the deck and that he worked hard to ensure that the slope was at a perfect incline to prevent cars from scraping as they turn. He assures that the final design is his best work, both in architectural design and style.

“We tried to keep it from being just a pure, big concrete mass,” Durham said. “We tried to make the color materials blend to the downtown.” 

The new parking deck falls in between districts one and two of Florence.

“I feel this parking deck will truly be beneficial to the Florence community, especially downtown and of course the university as well,” Kaytrina Simmons, City Council Woman for district one said. “There is a growth that is coming downtown. We have now a new event center. I was just out strolling on Friday night, and I was watching the cars having to circle to find parking.”

Simmons and the other members of Florence’s city council had to approve Durham for the design. She states that the beginning of this building project to revolutionize parking downtown and to build a new city hall is only the beginning of growth that will take place in the area. 

“I anticipate and I look forward to continued growth downtown, certainly with the university being Division One now.” Simmons said. “The city is growing, and we want growth. I’m looking at the future, the long-range of the city of Florence.”