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Mobile Mayor and Community Coming Together On Civic Center

Written by on September 27, 2019 | Opinion

The Mayor of Mobile is finally listening to the people. On Wednesday, Sept. 18th, Mayor Stimpson unveiled a ‘Plan B’ proposal for a design concept for the civic center property redevelopment.  This plan calls for the current arena to remain and the current expo hall to be demolished. The theater at the civic center, which is home to the Mobile Ballet, the Mobile Symphony, and the annual Distinguished Young Women’s national pageant, would be rebuilt. In addition to those changes, a parking structure would replace the current parking lot and a Cordish Live! venue would replace the current parking lot.  This idea would also include room for an office building and retail space, with residential buildings to add an additional buffer between the property and nearby neighborhoods.

These plans were developed after concerns were raised by surrounding neighborhoods, downtown businesses, and local Mardi Gras associations after the Cordish Companies was the only developer left in consideration for the redevelopment of the property after Stirring Properties pulled out of consideration. Those concerns arose after word came out that the Cordish Live! venue being pitched didn’t include an indoor event space big enough to hold Mardi Gras balls during Alabama’s largest festival on an annual basis. The ideas released by the Mayor are very similar to ideas floated here earlier this year.

If the city moves forward with this idea, or something similar, the current arena is going to have to undergo massive renovations. The last time the building was updated was in the 1980s.  This idea is a huge improvement over the ideas floated by the remaining developers and should be considered seriously by them as a consensus of what the community wants.

The Mayor has also indicated that the city is under no contractual obligation to continue with Cordish Cos. as the developer of this project beyond the next step. He also indicated that he hasn’t spoken with them about this new ‘Plan B’ idea yet and they have not given any indication to if they would be open to these ideas. If Cordish indicates that these ideas don’t work for them or they aren’t willing to consider them, then the city should replace the developer, not the idea. There are other developers and real estate property owners that already own and operate properties throughout the downtown area that have the necessary experience to handle a project of this size and scope. 

Now that the city has narrowed in on an idea that most have a vested interest in the Civic Center property agree on, it is not the time to let a developer get in the way.  I understand developers have to make money, and enough money to entice them to build a project, but this is also a public use property owned by the public so ensuring the property has a best use design for the community should be our first objective with this project and any developer that doesn’t want to help us achieve that goal isn’t the right developer for the job. Regardless if they are the last ones standing or not.

Now that the Mayor, the City Council, and the community seem to be coming together and getting on the same page on the civic center project, now is the time to start moving forward in a ‘One Mobile’ direction on this proposal.  There is plenty of room for the developer to climb on board this train and take part in the success of the Civic Center, but if they don’t want to board this train, there are people in line behind them willing to take their place.

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