Decatur Development Blog

Expansion and Development in the Greater Decatur area

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6th and Beltline

Posted by alalto on July 31, 2011


I apologize for how long it’s taken me to post about this.  Either way, here’s my take on the new development at 6th and Beltline.

Below is an excerpt from the Decatur Development Map, which you should take a look at 😉

Pay attention to the numbers and colors, they’ll help you figure out what’s going on.

Here’s a quick rundown:

Red means “Expected; awaiting construction”
Blue means “Completed”
Purple means “Proposed”

1) Shopping center, supposedly anchored by Kohl’s (they haven’t released the anchor yet, but it’s generally believed to be Kohl’s). 80,000 to 110,000 sqft.

2) Olive Garden: Currently occupied by Lynn Layton Cadillac. Lynn Layton Cadillac will move across 6th Ave (US 31) (the large road that runs north south). After Cadillac moves across 6th Ave, three takes place.

3) Lynn Layton Nissan and Cadillac move in together. Nissan will be remodeled once Cadillac moves over.

4) Kroger intends to build a fuel center in front of its building. At this moment, we don’t know where on that property it will be built.

5) New tenants have been announced for the Crossings of Decatur (anchored by Target) as:
– Moe’s Southwest Grill
– Gigi’s Cupcakes
– Shoe Show
– The Children’s’ Place

6) Bender’s Gym: A 33,000 sqft, $3.5 Million facility.

There’s also another development that I neglected to label on the map. The orange box immediately to the right of #2 (Olive Garden) is a Verizon Store that is currently under construction.

7) This is some proposed development spot. They didn’t really say anything about anyone looking at, simply that it was “prime real estate.”

Here’s the deal.

Most of this I expect to happen.  The city will benefit through increased tax revenue, substantially.  However, traffic is going to get bad.  The city plans improvements to the Beltline/Veterans Dr intersection, and there will be a light placed in front of the Kohl’s shopping center.

Eventually something is gonna have to give, and I don’t think we can expect anything to happen until the widening of the Beltline on the SE end.  Even with that widening, you still have the problems on 6th Ave and AL 67 east of US 31.  What we consider moderate traffic during the day (non rush hour times), can/will quickly grow into heavy.  It seems quite short-sighted of the city to only consider slight intersection improvements.

What else can we expect?  Sales tax produce is going to increase.  I don’t mean from the stores that are planned for construction, I’m talking about all over town.  Folks in Lawrence, Morgan, and northern Cullman Counties will have less of a reason to drive to Huntsville now, since Decatur is closer and will be more able to satisfy their shopping needs.  So, look for more traffic ALL OVER town.

As for when all of this will be completed, there’s no telling.  If I had to guess, I’d say mid 2013 would be the latest.  But, we all know how things progress in this city…

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Development Map

Posted by alalto on July 26, 2011


Check out the updates to the Decatur Development Map!

We’re now on Tumblr!  Still under construction, but you can go ahead and follow us!  It’s our Decatur Development Blumblr!

Also, don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter!

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Stratford Doctors Offices

Posted by alalto on July 24, 2011


You might remember a long time ago that there was a proposal for the corner of Stratford Road SE, and 6th Ave SE for some office buildings. Well, according to the “Building Permits” listed in the DecaturDaily today, those offices are finally about to be built. It’s been probably 3 or 4 years, but they’re about to be constructed by Fite for about $650,000. It’s about time…

I hope to have another post soon about the activity at 6th Ave/The Beltline.

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What’s With All The New Development?

Posted by alalto on July 20, 2011


Maybe you’ve noticed, Decatur’s been kinda popular within the past month or two when it comes to job announcements and retail developments.

Why?

If you asked this question to my face, I’d tell you, “Who cares?”  BUT, since this is a development blog…

Basically, folks, the economy is recovering and we’re ahead of the curve.  Well, really, all of the Tennessee Valley is ahead of the curve.  Huntsville has seen a massive tidal wave of new residential developments in downtown (by Alabama standards), Madison has started construction on a development that will be almost identical to “The Crossings of Decatur,” here we’ve had announcements of an Olive Garden and new shopping center (supposedly including Kohls); and this could all be added to by an Audi announcement (everyone hope and pray).

All of these developments make me ask, “What are we doing in the way of planning to cope with the potential outcomes of these announcements?

The City of Huntsville has set out a great plan for communities surrounding a potential Audi plant in Huntsville annexed Limestone County.  You can read about it here in the Huntsville Development News.

The plan includes village centers, planned residential areas, and probably the first function grid systems since the early 20th century.  Why are grids important?  City’s like Atlanta don’t really have them, so you can guess how they might impact future growth.

Anyways, the effort to mitigate traffic and sprawl problems from these developments has shown promise, but more needs to be done.  I know, I’m always saying that more needs to be done.  It’s true though, The South has never really been at the forefront of planning for its future.  However, some of our cities have really been making a good effort to plan for their future (Huntsville, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa have been doing the best so far).  There’s no reason why we can’t join the ranks.  It’s time that we make the efforts of the “Downtown Decatur Redevelopment Authority” an official part of the city planning department.

I’m happy that within the past month we’ve had two announcements that will add over 300 jobs to the market, but I want to be sure that the people that move here to take those jobs will be building homes in a way that compliments the residents that already reside here.

ANYWAYS, back to the original reason for this post.  Why the developments are here.

1)  North Alabama has a very diverse economy.  Decatur is the manufacturing anchor, while Huntsville is the tech anchor, so our region easily recovers from a weak economy.

2)  Morgan County had very little damage from the April tornadoes, and zero deaths.

3)  We have a skilled workforce to draw from.  Any industry can set up in our town and expect to have applicants that have specialties from robotics to assembly lines.

How will all of this affect us?

I know many of us are wondering how this will affect our own pockets and patience.  Basically, you’re going to see A LOT more traffic around the 6th/Beltline intersection.

What will that lead to?  I think you’ll start to see leaders thinking about widening nearby roads like Veterans Drive as citizens attempt to take alternate routes.  Additionally, you’ll see more traffic along AL 20/ALT 72, but the newly widened Beltline should help tremendously.

 

All in all, the affect shouldn’t be that huge in how much it messes with your patience.  BUT, I think you’ll start to notice that you’re traveling to Huntsville less and less.  After Academy was built, I think that kept nearly 175,000 people from making thousands of trips to Huntsville because they could now shop for pretty much anything they needed in Decatur.  After these new developments, we’ll see more of that, which really helps our school budgets and city coffers.

It’s all good people, embrace it 😉

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High End Apartments for Young Professionals?

Posted by alalto on July 7, 2011


The Daily recently did an article about how the city is attempting to attract a developer that will construct some upper class apartments in order to attract young professionals that work in the city.

While I believe that the effort is a good one, and I agree that we need to be working harder to keep our young professionals from living outside our city, I’m not sure how well the city’s idea would work.

Why?

Put bluntly, Decatur doesn’t have good nightlife.  Retaining these young professionals is all fine and dandy, but they have to have something to do, right?  We have some good restaurants, and downtown is FINALLY starting to pick up as far as night business goes.  BUT, more has to happen before we can truly have something that these 20 somethings desire.  I should know, I’m 22, as of today of course.  It’s my birthday 😉

Anyways, if this apartment complex idea is to be effective, it has to be constructed in or near downtown.  Why?  Because young people are more and more trying to get away from driving EVERYWHERE.  Our 20 somethings that have grown up in Decatur may not be so open to walking everywhere because of our car based layout, but young professionals that have attended schools like Alabama, Auburn, Vandy, or Ohio State have been using public transit for years.  I remember when I first got to Alabama, I never thought I’d use the buses, but they turned out to be an invaluable asset in the mornings…  So, since we cannot at present provide adequate public transit, we need to be able to provide a walkable community.

Bottom line is that our city needs to start working constructing walkable communities.  I was very happy with how they installed sidewalks along Sandlin Rd, and the results have been great.  There’s been much more foot traffic.  So, we need to replicate that, especially along 6th Ave.  That street is aging and needs something to bring it back.

So, all in all, the city’s idea for a high end apartment complex is a good one.  BUT, they need to be careful on which area they’re interested in for this project or else it will never succeed.

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Driving Decatur To The Future – Keys To Success: Industrial Recruitment

Posted by alalto on January 25, 2011


Don’t forget to follow us on twitter! @DecaturBlog

Also, don’t forget to “like” us on Facebook!  Decatur Development Blog

So, did anyone like the entertaining-ish links?  If you did, leave a comment.  I think I’m just gonna stick with linking to Wikipedia pages and informative stuff like that.

So!  Industrial Recruitment (I’ll post the tourism section in a later post)

This is something that Decatur seems to do well on, but somehow we still see our city lagging behind in the expansion that we should be expecting.

Question: Why do I say expecting?

Answer: Because I believe Decatur has many attributes that other cities our size cannot begin to brag about:

  1. Airport
  2. River
  3. Rail
  4. Interstate
  5. Low cost of business
  6. Access to a highly educated work force
  7. A city willing to help with funding
  8. Large amounts of space
  9. A lot of flat land
  10. Lower presence of unions

Question Gorgonn is asking: What does this have to do with anything, how on earth does this give us an edge?

Answer: I thin we all know that the presence of ANY of these qualities weighs in a city’s favor when attracting industry.  HOWEVER, the average city like our’s in the USA with 45,000 to 75,000 people and a metro of 150,000 to 200,000 people can only usually offer 5 or 6 of these attributes.  A fortunate city would be able to brag about 7 of them.

You would think this gives us an enormous edge right?  Well, that is right, but it’s obviously not paying off.  The reason why is because Decatur is suffering from a feeling of small town identity.  Many citizens of our fair city believe us to be nothing more than a “bedroom community” of Huntsville which is entirely unfounded.

It’s a fact, we live in the shadow of Huntsville, but only because we allow ourselves to.  You’re probably wondering why I find this to be something that is optional.  The truth is, a city’s identity is only what its own citizens make it.  We can choose to live and thrive in our city, or we can choose to live in Decatur and thrive in Huntsville.  I’ll tell you now that the first option is much better.

Am I saying that our relationship with Huntsville is one that should be severed?  Not at all, I rather thing that it is something that should be encouraged and nurtured.  However, we cannot allow ourselves to lose our identity and switch our allegiances.  You want examples?  Here they are:

  1. Fort Worth and Dallas – Do you consider Fort Worth to be a bedroom community of Dallas?  If you’re smart, you’d probably say no.  The relationship between Fort Worth is such that while these two cities are inseparably bound, they are not one cultural entity.  I promise you that if you ever ask someone (who happens to be from Fort Worth) where they are from, they’ll say Fort Worth, not Dallas.  This is the best example of what our relationship with Huntsville should be.  Like Fort Worth and Dallas, we should resist the urge to become a single cultural mass while also embracing our relationship in a way that can only improve both of our chances of attracting projects and development that enhance the quality of our communities.
  1. Minneapolis / St. Paul – This example is not as good of one as the previous.  Why?  Because the city centers are almost literally right across the Mississippi River form each other.  While these two have not maintained the difference between their cultural identities in the way I would prefer us to, they have still successfully used their relationship to make stronger cases for new business and projects.
  2. Greenville – SpartanburgThis is probably the second best example you can ask for after DFW.  These cities are separated by 20-30 miles of I-85 in South Carolina and have had EXTREME success in using their relationship and combined qualities to attract numerous industrial projects that have lead to an increased quality of life and tax base.  You have probably heard our city leaders talk about emulating Greenville, SC many times because Greenville is the same size.  While the CITY of Greenville is about the same size as Decatur, its metro area is home to about 3.5 times more people than Decatur’s.  However, there are still lessons to be learned from the relationship between Spartanburg (the Decatur in this relationship) and Greenville (the Huntsville in this relationship).

You’re probably wondering, why does all of this matter?  What does this have to do with bringing in new industry and business?  This has everything to do with it.  Here are some reasons why municipal relationships and pride matter to industry and business:

  1. Let’s face it, Decatur is more blue collar, and that’s OK.  Huntsville is white collar, and that’s OK too.  The fact that we have to major cities within 20 miles of eachother that have large workforces of both blue and white collar workers is an asset.  It means we’re capable of attracting a multitude of different industries.  Anything from rocket manufacturers to the run of the mill steel mill.  Taking advantage of this relationship and asset is just another check in our column when an industry is considering our area.
  2. How does pride matter?  Believe it or not, industries like to know that you care about your community.  They figure that if Gorgonn the screw driver operator doesn’t enjoy living in a town like Decatur, he/she obviously isn’t going to enjoy screwing screws and will thus screw screws rather poorly.  What does this result in?  A product that probably functions in the same manner that Gorgonn believes his/her community does… like crap.

What do I think our leaders should do?

It’s simple really, they need to go after a more diverse group of industries.  I believe progress has been made in the establishment of the new industrial park in Hartselle along I-65 (Morgan Center Business Park).  HOWEVER, why don’t we hear of our leaders traveling to meet with leaders of companies that are looking to expand and could potentially do so in Decatur?  We’ve seen them travel to Greenville, SC to examine the progress they have made on their downtown, and while I believe that has been a productive trip, I think they need to start looking at business recruitment.

The fact is, we can provide any industrial project the right amount of space, utilities, and transportation networks that they need to be successful.  Unlike the Rust Belt, or infrastructure isn’t withering away and crashing under the pressure of being overcapacity.  Many leaders of successful cities travel and act as lobbyists for their towns, forming the relationships necessary to recruit industry.  We see them traveling to China, Germany, Korea, and other places with companies that have deep interests in expanding manufacturing and research into the Americas.  The Chinese in particular value the relationships that already have with American cities and states when deciding where to build a new plant.

In Bob Riley’s administration, there were numerous trips to various foreign countries for the purpose of economic development.  They’ve been very successful.  Our city needs to get involved in these trips, and have at least some representative among the delegation that at least lets corporate leadership in other countries know that our city exists.

Full Circle

This leads me back to near where I began.  Decatur and Huntsville have got to work together on this.  A win for one of us is a win for the other as well.  We’ve seen Birmingham and Tuscaloosa work together to land Mercedes and the same process needs to be replicated.  A company can set up shop in Huntsville, but we all know that every single employee won’t be living and/or shopping in Huntsville.  Some will live in Huntsville (most probably), and some will live in Madison, Athens, and Decatur.

Right now, we’re competing, and that needs to change.  In a usual competition, an entity wins something that the others didn’t, and that’s not the case here.  If Madison wins a project, the benefits bleed over into Huntsville, Decatur, and Athens.  You get the point.

Now, go email your councilmen or something…


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Keep Your Tax Dollars In Alabama

Posted by alalto on January 19, 2011


Be sure to “Like” Keeping Your Tax Dollars In Alabama on Facebook!

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Tuesday’s Referendum

Posted by alalto on April 16, 2010


Following Tuesday’s referendum, I have begun to feel optimistic enough start posting again on here. While it’s possible that the Justice Department might not OK the council-manager government, the Sunday alcohol sales approval is enough that it could positively impact the city in numerous ways.

Benefits of Sunday alcohol sales

1) A wider variety of restaurants: It’s a well known fact that there are many restaurants that usually won’t even think about going to a city that doesn’t allow Sunday alcohol sales. True, some will move to cities that don’t allow the sales, but that usually only occurs in large metropolitan areas like Birmingham, Nashville, Atlanta, and on up.

Now, restaurants that could potential begin looking at Decatur, now that the sale of alcohol is allowed on Sundays, are Olive Garden, Buffalo Wild Wings, Carrabba’s, etc… And now that Longhorn Steakhouse is already establishing itself in Decatur, the research, facts, and demographics have already been looked at and people know the situation. That’s not to say that we’re going to be seeing these things pop up over night, it’s going to take time.

As far as location goes, I’d like to see at least one restaurant locate downtown that is investing in the city because of Sunday sales.

2) Increased tax revenue: In this kind of economic climate, every municipality could benefit from some extra tax dollars. While restaurants take time to develop, increased tax revenues will be felt more readily. I’m not sure how these tax dollars will be allocated, I think the jury is still out on how the city will use the money.

Council-manager

I’ve always been a fan of this form of government, because it cuts out a lot of red tape and creates a more fluid government. Unfortunately, there’s no telling how this will go when the Justice Department looks at it. Billy Jackson sees the whole approval of this switch as an attempt to stomp out the minority vote in the city and I hope that his constituents have taken notice of his willingness to work with other officials in creating a system that works for everyone, not just the majority of Decaturites.

What is possible is that the state legislature could attempt to make an exception for the city in this situation to change the make up of the future council. For example, instead of having three districts, there could be five, allowing for what we currently have in the way of District 1, which gives the minority vote a seat on the council.

I’m hopeful that something good will come of all this, but you can never tell.

Anyways, I expect to post on here more frequently now that I have a bit more time on my hands, and I’m a little more optimistic.

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My Idea for 2nd Ave

Posted by alalto on October 22, 2009


When you look at downtown, what do you see? A lot of cement, asphalt, and stone. Most of it, amazingly white and hot. It almost make it seem too hot to even get out of your car right? While there is a big streetscape project going on right now, but I feel that A LOT more could be done.

A big detriment to Decatur’s downtown is the fact that it isn’t truly centered around a body of water. If you look at the most successful and enjoyable downtowns in the country, they’re all on water, and they embrace it. New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Miami, Tampa, Nashville, Memphis, and the list goes on. In Alabama, Mobile, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Florence, etc… all do pretty good jobs of using the river to their advantage.

While we can’t move downtown physically and place it right next to river, there are some other things we can do. Think of the pocket park, or the fountain at Delano, or any other park that utilizes a water feature, they’re all big attractions that attract people and make a downtown area seem more enjoyable and not so “hot” and oppressive.

So here is my idea. We’re fortunate enough to have a good street grid in downtown. 2nd avenue is pretty heavily traveled, BUT, the streets that parallel 2nd are very underused and under traveled. Keeping that in mind, this is what I propose.

Tear up the road on 2nd avenue. Construct an artificial creek where the road used to be. A good example of what this entire thing might look like is centennial Olympic park in Atlanta:

Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta

Here is a map of what I propose:

2nd Avenue Decatur

Now, the above seems like it would disrupt all the efforts that the city is putting into the area, but that is simply not true. The streetscaping that they are doing mostly lies in the form of the sidewalks, which would be used, and expanded in this proposal.

Starting at Johnston Street, the road would be torn up and replaced with a creek-bed. Paralleling the creek would be a sidewalk on either side. I would propose a large waterfall somewhere down the road, maybe in front of Emiron Music or maybe next to the pocket park, to enhance the stream and turning it into more of a magnet. People like to see nature in downtown areas, and this is a great way to do it. Plus, this would create a cool spot to sit around on summer shopping trips in downtown for people to get away from all the heat.

At the foot of the creek, there would be a main plaza with a pond where the creek ends. I would propose putting in a grand fountain in the middle. This would act as a central location for downtown, or a true “square” something that Decatur probably hasn’t had since the mid 1800s.

This type of development would look like Bridge Street Towne center in Huntsville, except I’d think it would be better looking. It would make downtown look much much better, attract more people downtown, and would attract those boutique retail stores that cities all over the country are attempting to bring to town.

Would this be expensive? Yes, it would, but in my opinion, this is a sure fire way to bring people downtown.

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Longhorn Coming to Decatur

Posted by alalto on October 11, 2009


Longhorn Steakhouse will be opening up their first Decatur area location at the Crossings of Decatur. Construction is expected to begin in one month.

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