The city acquired the mill’s holdings, approximately 500 acres, through donation and purchase after its 2006 closing, and tapped Atlanta-based AMEC engineering and project management services more than a year ago to conduct a property assessment. The land is divided into 21 parcels stretching from Alabama Highway 21 to County Road 511 with Seminole Street acting as a center.
AMEC project manager Lee Walton and senior planner Paige Hatley presented two possible land use options. Their findings determined that a roughly 185-acre portion between Twin and Seminole streets has the most potential for development and would be suitable for either business and industry or a large retirement community. The remaining properties, most of which run inside the city’s 100-year floodplain and therefore are not ideal for advanced development, were divided between nature-based recreation, stormwater management, residential and commercial uses.
“Based on our understanding of the existing utilities in the area, there could be support for (industrial use in the 185-acre area), but the issue we’ve been discussing at length is access,” Hatley said. “You may need to look at an overpass or bypass just over downtown that would give us access to (U.S. 280), and by doing that and having local road improvements, you can partition off additional parcels and increase the amount of businesses and industries that could locate here while protecting the residences nearby.”
Walton suggested partnering with the state Department of Transportation and taking a phased approach to construct a road through the properties linking Alabama 21 to U.S. 280, if industry is to locate in that area.
“This is an expensive proposition, so it requires a partnership with the state and probably federal funds,” he said. “In order to build the case for it, you would need a more comprehensive transportation analysis that would show the present traffic problems and the extent to which this would alleviate them.”
The option for a retirement community is supported by research, Walton said, and would likely thrive in this area. It is also conveniently located to downtown amenities and would not require a major road infrastructure change, according to their assessment.
“The research we did suggests it is a realistic opportunity,” he said. “The demographic trends suggest there is going to be increasing demand for those types of communities, and there are not many of them in Alabama.”
Walton said the city must make a strategic decision as to which option, if either, to begin promoting for development. To benefit development possibilities, he recommended the city update its comprehensive plan, last revised in 2004, and formulate plans for transportation, stormwater management, recreation and preservation, and zoning for that acreage.
The council, absent member Shannon Darby, discussed transportation options and the floodplain at length throughout the work session, but offered no opinions on which option they would like to pursue. Mayor Doug Murphree said the property assessment “gives us a lot of ideas to look at.”
Contact Emily Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.