6 things you need to know about downtown redevelopment
By Scott Buttram
TRUSSVILLE –The recent announcement of a new development in the downtown area sparked a lot of talk — and questions — about the overall downtown redevelopment plan for Trussville. Here are six things readers need to know about downtown redevelopment.
- The city is not going to bulldoze and rebuild downtown.
The city is not going to wipe downtown clean and build new stores and offices. It just doesn’t work that way.
Downtown redevelopment is driven by private developers one parcel at a time. As current property owners decide to sell or develop their property, another piece of the picture falls into place. These private property owners build to suit a particular tenant or attract a certain type of tenant to their property.
City involvement is limited to acquiring right-of-ways for infrastructure improvements such as roads, drainage and utilities. The city may also choose to participate in common area improvements like sidewalks, lighting, and parking.
In some cases, like the city’s recent purchase of the former Sticks ‘n Stuff building, the will city remove a dilapidated building and make the property available for a developer to purchase or be used for public parking.
- Downtown redevelopment is well underway.
While construction crews may be the most anticipated and visible sign of the downtown project, much of the work to redevelop downtown takes place behind the scenes and may not be immediately apparent. Two examples would be the current revamping of building codes for the downtown area and the acquisition of property for a new street grid.
There are current downtown building codes in place and those are the codes currently being updated. The process involves multiple committees and boards. The final recommendations, which are expected soon, must then be approved by the city council.
The council has announced plans to extend and improve Railroad Avenue, which will give one quadrant of downtown true city blocks and additional street frontage for potential development.
- The city doesn’t choose businesses; businesses choose the city.
With rare exceptions, the city doesn’t recruit a particular business to locate in Trussville. When a business chooses Trussville as a potential location, the decision is usually based on a number of factors, such as market research by the company, demographics, the current mix of businesses, and the availability of suitable property within the proper zoning codes.
The city can offer incentives to new or existing business as a way to enhance the appeal of Trussville and draw the investment of developers and property owners. Generally, Trussville chooses to consider these on a case-by-case basis.
- Downtown redevelopment is a long-term process.
The Downtown Redevelopment Authority, along with other committees and the city council, are working to establish a look and feel for downtown based on zoning for desired businesses and building codes for a desired cohesive look.
Over time, current businesses may choose to upgrade their buildings to match the new look of downtown. Or, as in the case of the recently announced senior living apartments and retail space, a new development may be built using the new standards for downtown.
The city can and has made exceptions to the current guidelines, but the new standards should provide a blueprint for the future look of downtown as development occurs.
- The moving parts of redevelopment are many.
As mentioned earlier, there are numerous elected and appointed authorities involved in downtown redevelopment. Among those are the Downtown Redevelopment Authority, Planning and Zoning Board, Board of Zoning Adjustment, the Design Review Committee, and, of course, the mayor and city council. Some or all of these groups have a hand in determining the scope of any development.
In addition, county and state officials must often be involved because Chalkville Road is a county road and Main Street is a state highway. Both governments must sign off on infrastructure improvements and entry access points.
- The downtown vision is your vision.
It might be easy – and it’s certainly convenient – to direct praise or criticism of the vision for a redeveloped downtown toward elected or appointed officials. But the fact is this is the citizens’ vision.
Over the last 10 years or more, there have been multiple public meetings to determine what Trussville citizens wanted in their downtown area. Attendance at these meetings has ranged from a few dozen to several hundred. All in all, the public involvement has been impressive.
Now, it is the responsibility of city government to enact and carry out the vision set forth by the citizens. It is the responsibility of the citizens to hold city government responsible for doing just that.