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DruidCity

Renaissance Tower renovation, Florence,AL

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The Renaissance Tower, now vacant, is the tallest building in Alabama north of Birmingham:

image06.jpg

With an impressive view from atop a hill overlooking the Tennessee River, the tower has long been a source of controversy in the Quad-Cities/Shoals area, which for those unfamiliar with the state is in the northwestern corner of Alabama.

Proponents saw it as a symbol of Florence, the "Renaissance City," and potentially a major tourist attraction. Detractors saw it as a waste of public funds, and often refer to it as a "white elephant" or the "Shoals Shaft."

Regardless of the tower's heretofore unsuccessful reign, it will get new life as part of a $65-million Retirement Systems of Alabama investment in the Shoals region, and the overall project recently began construction and "is expected to take 18 to 20 months to complete."

As part of the plan, the tower will be connected to a conference center and via skywalk to a new 200-room, 5-story hotel, and the top of the tower will again be home to a restaurant:

http://www.timesdaily.com/apps/pbcs.dll/ar.../309050330/1011

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I think the thing is kinda cool looking personally. I won't claim to know a lot about this area of bama, do they get a lot of tourists up there?

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They really don't, which is why the thing hasn't been successful so far, even though it is IMO an impressive project.

They're hoping that the current investment project will establish the area as a draw to tourists.

It is an attractive-looking area of the state, but largely isolated and often ignored by most Alabamians, because there is no interstate highway, and there's no four-lane north-south highway.

There are plans for an Atlanta-Memphis interstate-quality highway that would go through the area, and help "put them on the map," so to speak.

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I thought about asking if there was a freeway and whether the purposed Atlanta-Memphis highway would run through there. Guess it would have been a valid question, but I took it off of my post at the risk of sounding like a dumb ass, LOL!

Well, they certainly need to work on their image. When I think of weekend vacation spots I NEVER think to go to NE Alabama. I guess the big question is, do they do have something there that is a natural draw (i.e. North GA has mountains, Savannah has history and ocean, Charleston history ocean, etc) or are they just hoping to make up a tourist spot?

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Hey, my hometown area. My paarents and I (when not in Bham for college) live there. Renaissance is seriously a sad thing. The poor thing gets no recognition, there are virtually no tourists worth anything. Most of the tourists come from Lawrenceburg, Tennessee and other such places. The new proposal is going to also encompass a Robert Trent Jones gold course to help "boost jobs and the economy" which I really can't see how all of those nice kooshy caddy jobs are going to bring people to North Alabama.

Actually I prefer North Alabama to Central Alabama but I MUCH prefer the city to the rural areas and Florence just can't compare with Bham. If anyone would like pictures of Florence and Muscle Shoals, I can take a few the next time I am home and post them. There are actually many interesting places, but they are just ignored mostly.

*FAME Recording Studio*

Stars such as Britney Spears and old legends still record here and their limos can be seen driving down the road occcasionally. Some of the hits recorded here are:

-Do Right Woman, Do Right Man - Aretha Franklin

-Mustang Sally - Wilson Pickett

-Swear -John Michael Montgomery & All-4-ONe

Here is the complete list. http://www.fame2.com/fame/hits.htm

*Wilson Dam*

The first dam built on the Tennesee River and one of the largest in the TVA system, still supplying power to three states. http://www2.una.edu/geography/tn_web/Dams/Wilson.html

*Ivy Green*

The Birthplace and Home of Helen Keller. "The Miracle Worker" is performed every year as a celebration. http://www.helenkellerbirthplace.org/

*Alabama Music Hall of Fame*

Speaks for itself. http://www.alamhof.org/

*W.C. Handy Home and Museum*

The Father of the Blues! W.C. Handy, the Father of the Blues, birthplace is in the Shoals.

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EDIT : Well, I apparently posted at the same time as DevinLee. If you have any photos to share, then sure ...

"Well, they certainly need to work on their image. When I think of weekend vacation spots I NEVER think to go to..."

Other than Gulf Shores-Orange Beach, which attracts a very solid number of vacationers, most of Alabama is in pretty much the same boat. Even a lot of Alabamians don't think of our own state as a place to visit, and the state has long had image issues.

"I guess the big question is, do they do have something there that is a natural draw (i.e. North GA has mountains, Savannah has history and ocean, Charleston history ocean, etc) or are they just hoping to make up a tourist spot?"

Mainly the latter. Like other Alabama cities, they have a decent array of small, secondary attractions, but lack a big draw.

Here are some of the Florence-area's existing attractions and events :

* Wilson Dam (impressive structure, which led to the creation of the TVA :

http://www.orn.usace.army.mil/history/wils...ock_and_dam.htm

Here's a link to a large photo of the Renaissance Tower overlooking the dam

http://www2.una.edu/geography/institute200...m/MVC-014Lc.JPG

* Tennessee River & lakes (hosts national fishing tournaments)

* Natchez Trace

* Rosenbaum House - Only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building in Alabama

* Ivy Green - Birthplace of Helen Keller, pictured on the Alabama quarter

* Alabama Music Hall of Fame - A lot of musicians recorded in the area years ago & Florence natives included Sam Phillips (music producer who had a dramatic impact on shaping American music) and W.C. Handy

* Host to the NCAA Division II football national championship game and DivII football hall of fame (Florence's University of North Alabama plays in DivII)

* Alabama Renaissance Faire - http://www.geocities.com/alabamarenfaire/

* W.C. Handy Musical Festival - One of the top annual music festivals in Alabama

Components of the upcoming RSA $65-M project :

* Renovate the Renaissance Tower & connect to a new hotel & conference center

* New course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

* $5-M River Heritage project (park next to the hotel and tower, includes items like an amphitheatre)

* As-yet-undecided $20-M "major attraction"

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