At a breakfast meeting last week at the Island Grill, the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce discussed plans for its new building.
On Friday morning, Jan. 13, 2012, the Sheriff's Department called in a fire at 3640 S.W. Pine island Road the Chamber of Commerce Building. The Pine Island Fire Department responded with four trucks and nine firefighters, and the Cape Coral Fire Department responded with three vehicles and six firefighters. However, by the time the fire department arrived it was too late to save the building the building was a complete loss.
A little more than a year later, on June 12, 2013, the Chamber of Commerce held a ground- breaking ceremony for its new building at the original site on Pine Island Road. Steve Timcak, the president of the chamber, began the ground-breaking ceremony by telling those in attendance that June 12 was a new beginning after the tragic loss of their building to arson.
An architects drawing of the new Pine Island Chamber of Commerce building.
"I'd like to take a moment to talk about volunteerism," he said during the ceremony. "This ceremony would not be taking place if it were not for volunteerism, an attribute this island takes great pride in. Our thanks go out to all who have donated their time, materials and monetary contributions, but as with any building project, financial setbacks abound. Ours is no exception. Recently enacted building codes are putting a strain on an already tight budget."
After more than a year since the fire, the chamber project is well under way. However, there are always new and ever changing building codes.
One volunteer, Pat Hutchinson said, "Building codes change, it seems, every day and our project is no exception. Any little change you make involves additional unexpected changes. For example, the handicap accessible ramps. We designed the ramps to code specifications of 4 feet width. Then we learned that any place there is a turn requires a 5-foot clearance. So we thought the solution would be to make the whole thing five feet. Once we found out how many other things, sort of a domino effect, would be involved we went back to the 4 foot plan."
The new chamber building is an open air plan, which has a see-through building concept. This provides a vista with an air of spaciousness. The airy feeling is accentuated with high, vaulted ceilings and a cupola with celestary windows for natural light. The chamber's plan is for a "green" building. New concrete technologies and new heating and cooling systems will reduce costs and reduce the effects on the environment.
Once individuals enter the chamber building, they will be welcomed by the Welcome Center Director Jennifer Jennings, as well as her ambassadors, who will engage them from an information command center.
The chamber has been back and forth with the planning commission several times and it seems they are getting close to final approval. Hopefully, the construction of the new chamber building will begin sometime within the next few months. It is estimated it will take three months to complete. This building will be a gateway to the island communities everyone will be proud of for many years to come.