By Megan Miller, Editor
TRUSSVILLE — Following the release of a plan by Mayor Gene Melton to facilitate the first facade improvement for two Main Street buildings, there was heated discussion at the Tuesday night Trussville City Council meeting.
Ultimately, the council voted the plan down on a 3-1 vote, however, the council plans to come back to the issue after the plan goes before RDA and design review.
Mike Gunter, owner of the Main Street building where Brik Realty, Birds on a Fence and the Trussville Tribune are located, has been the first property owner to step up and volunteer to update his buildings using David Reese’s designs.
Melton proposed that the city of Trussville purchase an alley way along North Chalkville Road between Gigi’s Boutique and Kuttin Up Hair Salon, which is currently owned by Gunter.
The initial plan suggested that the city purchase the alley way so they may also acquire the right-of-way, which is critical to the master plan for downtown, according to Melton. The city owned alley way stretches from Vann Circle, but stops short on North Chakville Road. The city would have paid $18.44 per square foot for the property, had the mayor’s proposal passed.
“This is a great opportunity for the city to acquire necessary right of way, at below market value and have one of the most prominent buildings in downtown receive the first TRDA compliant upgrade,” said Melton in an email to the council last week.
Council President Anthony Montalto said that although he believes it is a good plan, there is a downtown redevelopment authority that was overlooked in the process of the Mayor offering his own proposal.
“We’re bypassing them by not allowing them to discuss that at their meeting,” said Montalto. “Let RDA look at the information and get a recommendation before we proceed.”
Montalto also mentioned that it would be important to have the design review board look over the plan and make a recommendation to the council as well.
Councilman Perry Cook agreed that the RDA works hard and shouldn’t be overlooked in this process.
“I think we need to stay with the vehicle we have in place and how we’re going to do that with each property owner,” Cook said. “To me, Gunter is a totally separate item.”
Gunter has committed to using the proceeds of the sale to upgrade his two Main Street buildings to match the already proposed architectural renderings, and is prepared to start the project immediately.
“I had previously served on TDRA and I know how hard they’ve worked to get things going downtown,” Gunter said. “We loved the drawings as soon as we saw them and knew right away that we wanted to be the first property owners to renovate. This gives the city what they need and we’re excited about getting this done for Trussville.”
Councilman Alan Taylor was focused on the mayor having said in the initial email that this is a project he’d like done prior to the next election.
“I want to be perfectly clear, I hope everyone knows I am for downtown and I hope I prove to you guys that I’m all in for renovating downtown,” said Taylor. “I don’t think we move quickly enough. It’s a priority with all of us that we want to see, that we think is good and right for our city. From my standpoint I’m not for this because I want votes or I’m trying to get votes, I want to do this because this is the right thing to do for our city.”
Councilman Brian Plant echoed the same concerns.
“If you’re making decisions looking over your shoulder thinking about the election, you don’t need to be here,” Plant said.
The proposed changes to Gunter’s Main Street buildings included demolition to top of walls, reconstruction of the walls to accept new EFS system with dental block, installing new EFS system around entrance and left portion of the building, adding window grids to match existing windows as depicted in the architectural renderings, painting of the exterior of the building and installing new awnings to match the architectural rendering. There would also be three exterior trees added, each 15 feet tall.
Gunter has his contractors ready, and Melton projected that the project could be completed within 45 days, making it the first complete renovation in the downtown redevelopment process.