Decatur Development Blog

Expansion and Development in the Greater Decatur area

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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Typo!!!!!

Posted by alalto on August 28, 2009


Unfortunately, the original petition that has been circulating has a typographical error and has to start over again. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE everyone look at this an consider signing it! And if you already have signed it, please print this out and sign it and turn it in, in place of the old one.

Please pass this around to everyone you can, I believe it is important that the city is given everyone change to explore new and different opportunities to improve the city.

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Council-Manager?

Posted by alalto on August 27, 2009


There has been a lot of talk about possibly changing the form of Decatur’s city government into a “manager-council” government, instead of the “mayor-council” government which we have now.

The difference is this. Instead of having the mayor and council take care of the day to day city operations, a manager would be selected (under intense scrutiny) by the city council. The manager would take care of day to day operations.

Some notable cities with a “manager-council” government are Greenville, SC; Brentwood, TN; Dallas, TX;

The mayor position would basically become a ceremonial position, with little power. I am personally a fan of this form of government. But, it isn’t my opinion that matters when it comes down to it. It is what the entire city wants that matters. So, I am asking everyone to sign this petition and drop it by “Forever Flying Kites” on Spring Avenue, or mail it in. Signing this petition will not instantly change the government. It will simply force the city to have a vote on this idea in 2010.

Please at least consider it:

Petition Link

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I’ve been pondering…

Posted by alalto on July 24, 2009


So, I’ve been thinking… what does Decatur REALLY need that would really get development going? What should the city do that would really attract people? What is it that would make the city a success?

I’m sure these are the questions that many city officials and citizens have been thinking about for years. So, for the next few days, I’m going to run through the things that I think the city really needs to do in order to really jumpstart growth in the city.

For today, I’m going to go over a few things that should really be looked at.

Riverfront

The riverfront is a part of the city that could and should be really improved. A lot of development has taken place, yes, but more needs to and can be done to improve the area and bring more tax revenue into the city.

The condo building that was just recently built is an excellent example of what we need more of along the river. Most of the city’s population lives miles from the shore and thus doesn’t visit the river much. Bringing population closer to the shores of the river will really drive up foot traffic and tax revenue along the river.

Also, we have some great facilities along the river that need to be marketed better. The city really has a great Parks and Rec department that really doesn’t get the attention from the population that it deserves. We have quality park space that most cities our size would only dream of having. Keep up with the parks inland, but also, focus some more money along the river.

I was in Montgomery yesterday and I had a chance to walk along the riverwalk. It was absolutely beautiful. I know, things like that cost millions upon millions of dollars, so we all know it would take years to do these things.

My main problem with our current riverwalk is that it is so short. It is very short. We have very little access to the river via parkspace for a city that stretches for miles along a very large river. We need a park that is river next to the river. Rhodes Ferry is excellent, but it needs to be closer to the water. Even though people aren’t supposed to, they make the dangerous trek down to the waters edge through all those rocks on the bank. We need a riverwalk that is about 5 to 10 feet directly above the waterline, but sits right on the water, it is ridiculous how detached you feel from the river when you walk along Rhodes Ferry.

There are great events along the river, but more needs to be done. What the city has done is great, but the city can’t do it all on its own. Private groups need to put initiative to put on events on the river in order to bring more people out. For a city that bases a lot of its existence on the river, we don’t use it much for recreation.

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MorCo Industrial Park and dropping jobless rates?

Posted by alalto on July 21, 2009


The bonds for the $16 Million industrial park south of Hartselle, along Thompson Road and Interstate 65. This industrial park is expected to be similar, yet different, than the Mallard-Fox Industrial Park along the Tennessee River, west of Decatur on Alabama 20/ALT 72.

The parks are supposed to be similar in that the two will both have influence from the Decatur-Morgan County Port Authority, which allows for railroad access, and other intramodel utilities. Also, the new park is expected to look at more technical and hi-tech manufacturers/industries as tenants. First tenants will likely be located along the interstate, of course because of the exposure.

Now, I’ll start with the pros of this:

Location location location
Because this park is to be located along I-65, it is obvious that we’re going to get more visible industry/business from the interstate. Why is this good? Because it matters how people view the Decatur area. Is the area rural? or is it more metropolitan? We all know that the area is more metropolitan, but most people (whether they be simple tourists or developers/businessmen/potential investors) don’t have any clue what the area is like, mainly because there’s nothing to look at in Morgan County. Now, while I enjoy foliage, and the greenery along the highway, there isn’t much at this specific location. And it is important that the Decatur area is viewed as a developed/developing, economic, GROWING, and maintained area. Potential investors, though many will deny it, focus a lot on vanity, which is basically how the area looks to outsiders. In other words, it is important to be viewed as growing in order to continue growing.

The cons:

Meh…
As far as the financial impact on the county’s and the cities’ books goes, it’s not that risky. The money to make payments on the bonds comes from a steady income of “in lieu of tax” payments made to the area by TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority). If this industrial park is as successful as Mallard-Fox has been, we can expect a great return in the initial investment made by the county. And, ladies and gentlemen, Mallard-Fox has been outstandingly successful.

The only negative I really see with this park is the area that it will be improving. While we can expect a great deal of realistic influence on communities that are within about 5 to 10 miles (it all honestly depends on a complex “distance decay” formula which is in all honesty to complex for me to explain) it doesn’t seem that communities as far away as Somerville, Morgan City, and Lacey’s Spring will be realistically affected by this. Other than having some more money flowing into their municipal coffers, I don’t see any seriously noticeable growth in population or private sector economy occurring. However, I do see a possible positive affect on areas like Moulton, Lacon, Eva, Falkville, and Danville. The obvious benefactors are Hartselle, Decatur, and Priceville, because of their close proximity to the area. Hartselle and Falkville are the communities that I see benefiting the most economically, while I think we’ll see Decatur grabbing most of the population growth involved, followed by Hartselle, then Falkville, then Danville.

Apparently, the unemployment rate in the Decatur Metropolitan Area has decreased! The Decatur Metro was the ONLY part of the state to see a decrease in the unemployment rate in the ENTIRE state.

The Decatur Metropolitan Area, which consists of Morgan and Lawrence Counties saw the following:

in Morgan County, unemployment decreased from 10.2 to 10.1%
in Lawrence County, unemployment decreased from 12.4 to 12.3%

While the two counties saw a decrease, the rates were still high when compared to the counties with the lowest rates in the state. The lowest rate in the state was Shelby with 7.6 percent, followed by Madison with 7.9, then Coffee County (Enterprise/Elba in the Dothan Area) with 8.2. The Coffee County rate was particularly pleasing. It shows that the Wiregrass region of Alabama is now becoming a truly metropolitan region. Anyways, the lowest rate in the state was Wilcox with 24.4 percent.

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2008 City Census Estimates Released

Posted by alalto on July 2, 2009


The 2008 Census Estimates for cities were released yesterday. In Alabama, the city that gained the most numerically was Huntsville, growing by about 5,000 people. Since 2000, Huntsville has grown by about 16,700 people. After Huntsville came Tuscaloosa with about 12,000. In terms of percentage growth, Calera (a Birmingham suburb) was tops with 211% since 2000, growing by about 7,000 people to around 10,000. After Calera came Vance (a Tuscaloosa suburb).

Other cities our region:

Decatur: A slow grower, Decatur has gained about 2,000 people since 2000, last year gaining about 500.  The growth rate has begun to increase slightly, so we’ll see where that takes us.  Sadly, Auburn surpassed Decatur to take the number 8 spot among the largest cities in the state.  Decatur now sits at # 9 with 56,068 people.

Athens: The third largest city in Huntsville’s metro area, Athens has been growing a good pace.  The city has grown by about 5,000 people since 2000, and about 1,000 in the past year.  The growth rate has definitely increased as the East Limestone region of the Valley has started to influence growth on the suburban parts of Athens.

Madison: Among the fastest growing cities in the state, it has gained nearly 10,000 people in the past 8 years.  It now stands at 38,714.

Somerville: Since 2000 Somerville has lost about 200 people.  Lately, however, the town has begun to gain again.  A good sign.  Current estimates show the population at 505.

Hartselle: The second largest city in Morgan County and the Decatur Metropolitan Area has continued with its steady growth.  A very slow grower for the first half of the decade, the city has slowly started to grow a little faster.  The city now stands at 13,888.

Eva: The second smallest city in Morgan County has continued its very slow growth.  It now stands at 587.

Falkville: Until 2005, the city was losing people.  However, the population has turned around.  The population has lost people since 2000, however, the city has gained 1 person in the past year.

Trinity: A fast grower for a city its size, it now stands at 1,976.

Moulton: A city with VERY spastic growth, Moulton has gained just 7 net citizens since 2000.  But, growth is growth, the city has gained about 10 in the past year.

Priceville: Priceville is still one of the fastest growing cities in the state. Since 2000, Priceville’s population has increased by about 1,100 people, or 70%.

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You reading this?

Posted by alalto on June 28, 2009


Hmmmm, seems like someone might be reading my blog…

Daily article

Of course, that is kind of arrogant of me, but hey, it’s a big coincidence. Later today, I plan to post on some possible ideas, and good course of action for using the Delphi campus.

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We Gots A Lot To Report

Posted by alalto on June 26, 2009


We have a good edition of the Decatur Daily today! Yay!

Anyways:

First, we have some sad news. Delphi will be closing soon. My mother worked there for years, so we’re all sad to see it go. Though, I think that some good can come out of this. Now that the building is going to be vacant, the area has some prime real estate. The robotics center is being built right next door, which I hope to visit to photograph soon and report on the progress, so you have to think that some company that utilizes that thing is gonna want somewhere nearby to use also. Those buildings are massive, and can support some big operations. While many people, including some family friends, have worked there, there is bound to be a hi tech company that is going to be looking at that place now. I imagine that it could happen quickly too.

Next, we move downtown. Peoples Bank of North Alabama will take up shop in the old AmSouth Building. This is some GREAT news. This building has had a lot of empty space ever since the Regions/AmSouth merger. This is good on many levels. Not only do we get another tenant downtown, we get more business and money flowing through downtown, more people in downtown spending money thus stimulating the downtown economy, and we get someone in there who might actually make the building look presentable.

The city of Decatur has been rumored to be interested in buying the building, that was built in the 80s. I don’t know why they would want to do this. Part of me wants to believe that they want it because it’s currently an eyesore and they wanna make it look better. But, of course, it is across the street from city hall, and they could need some extra office space. Maybe this could be part of the downtown revitalization? Maybe they’ll renovate it and put some street level retail in there, that would be really nice. Maybe it could be part of the downtown arts college. It could contain some extra classroom space. Though, that would be pretty difficult to work out. Either way, they better have a good reason for wanting to spend so much money on this thing. Anyways.

Next, we have Bradley Byrne talking to the Decatur Daily. Obviously, he was trying to score some points for his campaign for governor, but either way, it made me happy. He says that the downtown arts campus and things associated with the robotics park would be a high priority if he became governor. And really, I tend to believe that he would make it a priority. I think he is the right person we need to fix our education system, so it would make sense that he would want to show other schools in the state what can happen when two colleges work together to improve education. Also, one of his platforms is a focus on technology. I also believe that the robotics park would be a priority because, obviously, hi tech industry is the future of this state. Plus, the park is going to put the state on the map. I really believe him because we have a HUGE opportunity to be successful with this park. When companies get done utilizing this facility, they’ll want somewhere close by, and RIGHT THERE is the Delphi campus. It could easily be converted into a hi tech research park. The state already owns part of it, and I don’t think the guys in Montgomery would mind working something out with a hi tech company. Just sayin… I get giddy just thinking about it.

So, that’s pretty much it for today. Don’t forget to become a fan on Facebook! The link is below. Also, don’t forget about the forum!

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We’re on Facebook

Posted by alalto on June 26, 2009


Decatur Development Blog now has a fan page on Facebook: I stole an idea from the Huntsville Development News Blog and decided to create one. Hoping to get more readers in the future. Anyways, become a fan! I hope to update more often. But, without much news lately, there isn’t much to report.

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