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Old Posted Mar 21, 2010, 6:58 PM
Johnny Ryall Johnny Ryall is offline
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Ritchie Smith to work on Discovery Park
Memphis Business Journal

Ritchie Smith Associates has been chosen to lead the planning and implementation of the multi-phase site plan of the $100 million Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tenn. Memphis-based Ritchie Smith Associates specializes in landscape architecture, urban design and planning. Its portfolio of work includes projects at Memphis Botanic Garden, Tunica River Park, Memphis College of Art and improvements to Overton Park. Work has resumed on the project after a lengthy delay due to a change in architects. The Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Foundation, principal benefactor of Discovery Park, has named Verner Johnson Inc. of Boston as the new architect for the venue. Verner Johnson chose Ritchie Smith Associates as part of its team. Memphis-based Hnedak Bobo Group Inc. developed the site master plan for Discovery Park and was a finalist to be project's architect before Verner Johnson was chosen.

Discovery Park will be an educational venue for children and adults to learn more about history, nature, art and science. In addition to designing the main exhibit building, Discovery Center, Verner Johnson will also oversee the implementation of the site master plan and all exhibit design and fabrication. The foundation originally hired Ottawa-based Douglas Cardinal Architects Inc. as the project architect, but terminated the contract in the summer of 2009 after a dispute over performance and fees. The foundation was established by the family that started Jackson, Tenn.-based Kirkland’s Inc. (NASDAQ: KIRK). The project was originally intended to open in late 2010, but now its estimated completion date has been pushed to September 2012, according to a foundation press release. Selected from approximately 70 architectural firms, Verner Johnson specializes exclusively in museum architecture and planning and has completed more than 200 projects throughout the world, including several for the Smithsonian museums.

Work in the first phase is expected to begin late this summer with additional grading and other site preparation. Soon thereafter, landscaping work and the relocation of historic buildings will begin. Water will be a prominent feature of the site, with several pools and a stream that flows north to south throughout the park. There will be landscaped paths along the stream with several bridges. The Discovery Center will have approximately 35,000 square feet of exhibit space devoted to education in history, nature, science and art. The building will include a cafe, museum store, and a space for special events that will accommodate approximately 300 people.
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