Decatur Development Blog

Expansion and Development in the Greater Decatur area

Posts Tagged ‘Alabama’

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 – The Keys to Success

Posted by alalto on January 16, 2011


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Yes, I know, it’s been FOREVER since I posted on this thing. I’m going to have a lot more free time this semester, so I’m hoping I can revive this thing. I know I’ve said this many times, but maybe I can get it done this time.

Keys to Success
I think we can agree that most of us look at our city and wonder why it isn’t succeeding like we know it can. Also, I’m sure we all can agree that some of the things that need to be done/fixed are pretty obvious, and don’t take much imagination to think of.

Let’s start with the obvious.

Self Worth

I’ve noticed that most citizens and officials in Decatur have a low sense of pride in their town. I mean, I agree that Decatur isn’t exactly the most exciting city on the planet, but it’s not like we don’t have anything to be proud of. I’m not going to go through the long list of things that we have to be proud of, because honestly, people should do that on their own and they would probably be surprised at what all we have to offer.

Anyways, we all know “that person” that is constantly calling Decatur a boring town, hick town, lame town, or a dump… We’ll call that person… Gorgonn, King of Stupidity… we all dislike Gorgonn when he/she opens their mouth, cause usually it’s just utter stupidity that spews from it. Hopefully, Gorgonn will hate this blog post.

I really feel like something needs to be done to boost Decatur’s “rep.” Basically, we need to get something going that creates a sense of pride in the community. Unless the city is proud of itself, we will never prosper.

Young People


We need young people, not the kind that are trampling all over grandpa’s lawn while he’s trying to watch wheel of fortune, but the kind that are educated and are looking to start professional careers in or around the city. These kinds of people not only make a greater amount of money over their lifetime, but they bring a certain “vibe” to the city that just can’t be fabricated.

I’ll say that the city is moving closer to attracting more of these young’ns, but more needs to be done. The monthly downtown funtime that occurs on the Friday is a good step, it brings people downtown, and though I haven’t yet visited one of these things, I can only assume that they’re fun.. ish. Like I said, more needs to be done. What can be done to attract more young people?

Young Professionals and their Social Lives

If I’m not mistaken, there is already an organization in town that brings young professionals together. If there is, good, if there isn’t, it needs to be created. I know Huntsville has one, and they’re pretty good things that bring young professionals together to meet, greet, gather, and socialize. They’re great ways to meet new people in a town that’s pretty spread out and sub-urbanized.

Not only do these bring people together to socialize, but they also do great things for the community. Typically, they do volunteer work like cleanups, tutoring, and other things.

Not only do these organizations bring together and maintain young professional populations that increase quality of life, and grow tax bases, they aid in attracting new industries and businesses, typically the ones that employ educated people.

Education

How many times have you talked to Gorgonn and heard the stupid King mention that Decatur is dumb, and has education problems. Being a product of the Decatur City School system, I can tell you that the resources are available for kids to succeed. When I arrived at the University of Alabama, I was prepared, and I wasn’t the kid that was sitting on their bed the night before an exam wondering why he couldn’t understand everything.

What I’m getting at is that Decatur doesn’t have an educator problem, it has an educated problem. What I mean is that the kids that are being taught are where we’re going wrong. Before you call me Gorgonn and say that I’m calling our kids stupid, I’m not, I promise. What I mean to say is that we have a problem with our kids not being inspired to learn, having a lack of aspirations, and just plain not wanting to learn.

There’s a big problem with kids not feeling like they’ll amount to anything, at all. Basically, we’re turning them into more Gorgonns… that isn’t what we want. We need to create a way to inspire our children, get them to be excited about their future, and helping them understand what they’re doing so they’ll want to learn.

I was a kid not too long ago, so I feel I know pretty well what it takes to get kids interested. As adults know, in college, classes get easier as you get into the ones that are more specific to your major, you know, the ones that you’re really interested in. Why can’t we find a way to connect the interest they have in various subjects to the subjects they’re being taught in class?

The problem that most kids don’t know what they wanna be when they get done with school. It doesn’t matter if it’s simply to be a hairdresser, or being a nuclear engineer, we need kids to want to be something so that they’ll know they need to get through school to get there. Even the simplest of jobs takes some kind of education.

I know that we went through career stuff in middle school, but it’s something that need to be injected into their minds early in elementary school. If a kid wants to be an astronaut when they’re in 1st grade, who cares? I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was that age, and what am I in school for now? Geography. Kids’ aspirations change, it’s inevitable.  But, to not inform them about their possible job prospects (even the unlikely ones) at a young age, simply because they’re gonna change what they want to do as they get older or they don’t understand how hard it is to get to these careers, is utterly Gorgonn-like. The fact is, the kids will eventually realize what their capabilities are as they age, and their aspirations will become more and more attainable. Another fact is, we aren’t doing enough to foster the kind of “career imagination” that we should be. The best part about doing this stuff is that it doesn’t have to cost money.  Start this at a younger age and I guarantee you increase the likelihood of their desire to be educated.

Corporate Involvement

Decatur City Schools has a very good relationship with area business and industry, this much is a fact. I remember receiving many benefits and visits from industry representatives in the Decatur area while I was going through school. This needs to be maintained, and expanded. Yes, these are rough economic times for the economy, but they are improving. Besides, an investment in an industry, or business’s, community is also an investment in that industry or business’s vitality and success. This is something that needs to be spread around. Happy and successful children equals happy and more productive parents (who are also employees of these companies).

Higher Education

I think this is an area that all of us know needs to be improved.  Morgan County will not have a single institute of higher education until the North Alabama Center for the Arts open in a few years.  While this is a great development for both downtown and the areas education, we still need to do more.  The nearest legitimate 4 year college is UAHuntsville, which is a good distance from Decatur.  We have education opportunities, but they aren’t convenient.

I’ll say, this is one field that I don’t know much about.  Higher ed politics are very complex and confusing, and rather costly.  Something should be done.  We see branches of Troy University in Dothan, Montgomery, and even Panama City, FL, why can’t we have something similar in Decatur?  Wallace State also has various branches of its school in the state.  I believe this is something that our city leaders need to look into and act upon.  We need someone to meet with leaders of Troy, Wallace State, Alabama, and maybe even UNA to examine the possibilities of opening a campus in Decatur.

NEXT TOPIC:

Transportation:  Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

 

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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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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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Various…ness

Posted by alalto on May 14, 2009


So, I’m bored, so I thought I’d just write an entry about some random crap that randomly crosses my mind at random moments….

So, first for some news. From the Daily, Morgan County approved $800,000 for the downtown arts program, and I’m hoping that the city follows through on their end.

Anyways, I was reading in the Daily, again, about how Gadsden has all these downtown events. They attract people and they are actually entertaining. And they are, I’ve been to many of them. My dad’s side of my family is from Gadsden, so I’m very familiar with the town. They do an excellent job of tying the city in with it’s river heritage, and exploit it without destroying the natural beauty.

So, I was thinking that the city already has a lot of things going on downtown. The problem is, no one knows about them, and they are so scattered that no one can choose to spend a night on the town and go to multiple events. They have to decide to go to one or another. We have a lot of resources downtown, we just don’t take advantage of it. The Princess is a HUGE asset to the city, and we don’t even exploit its existence. Sure, we all like it there, but not many of us can say that we attend events there regularly.

And honestly, the Princess is one of the nicest performance venues in the state. There aren’t many cities that have a venue like we do, and we need to use it.

So, I have an idea. Which, I think I might have mentioned in the past on this blog, I’m not quite sure. Here it is:

2nd Avenue and Bank Street. They’re two streets that are just lined with great places to eat and entertain. Now, at the moment, they’re doin alright, but they could be doing so much better. My idea is this, shut down 2nd Avenue and Bank Street to vehicle traffic and only allow foot traffic. To give a better example, Beale Street in Memphis, and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Of course, we could never dream of being as popular with this as Bourbon Street. But, I think that this could be a huge success.

The city wants to attract young professionals to the city. Young people that are looking to live somewhere that is fun, has a great quality of life, a lot of cultural diversity, and somewhere that they can themselves contribute to. These people come here, settle down, have kids, and contribute greatly to the economy. Possibly the best example of this type of growth is Austin, Texas, which uses the University of Texas to attract young professionals.

To get back to my idea. You may be pessimistic about this, and I honestly don’t think there is any reason to be. Because, if we get the arts school program downtown like we want to, we can expect the students at the school to participate and get they’re friends and family to come downtown to enjoy everything. College students are some of the best advertisers you could ever ask for. I would know, I’m one of them.

Now, I don’t know all of the things that could impede something like this. So, putting all possible road blocks aside, here’s my plan.

Starting at the southern most portion of downtown, at the Gordon Drive intersection, block of Second Avenue to vehicular traffic (diverting 2nd Ave traffic to 1st Ave). Then, block of 2nd Ave to vehicular traffic at the northern part of the street at the intersection with Lee Street. Of course, if we wanted to start out small, we could shut down 2nd Ave from Johnston Street to Lee Street. I would also suggest closing off Moulton Street between 1st and 2nd Ave.

So, now we have all of 2nd Avenue only open to foot traffic. Obviously, we have places like Maria Bonita open for nightlife eating and stuff. We would have certain performances at Maria Bonita, Princess Theatre, and then some kind of finale performance in the ginormous parking lot at the SW corner of 2nd Ave and Lee Street. So, crowds could like move gradually north along 2nd as the night progresses. A kickoff could start off with a more personal setting at the pocket park with various performances and such. The crowd would then move to eateries around the 2nd Ave/Moulton St. After the eateries, people would move further north to a performance at the Princess or maybe a free performance across the street at the vacant lot, or at the arts school. After these performances, people would then migrate to the finale type event in the parking lot.

See, I think that we can get all these entities to work together and form a schedule that, instead of conflicting with eachother, works together to create a fantastic night of entertainment that could be repeated once every month or so.

So, any opinions?

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I’m back!

Posted by alalto on May 6, 2009


ALSO!  I’ve created a forum on Forumer.com!   So, if y’all feel like it, I’m welcoming anyone who want to join to, well… JOIN!  Haha, anyways, here’s the link: LiveDecatur Forum

I know, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve updated this thing…  And, now that finals are almost over in Tuscaloosa, I hope to get this thing moving again 🙂  Fact is, development in the River City had been moving very slowly for the past few months, but, lately, I’ve been more inspired.   Haha.  Anyways, I hope to be a bit predictable as far as how often I update.

So, let’s go over some stuff that’s been happening.

ACADEMY SPORTS & OUTDOORS

So, the Academy location has started construction along The Beltline, I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’ve driven through SW lately.  This is yet another example of the strength of our local economy, compared to other cities across the U.S.

BELTLINE WIDENING

The first phase of the widening is finish, and the 2nd phase has begun, though, no visible construction has started.

ARTS CENTER

It was in the Daily yesterday that Calhoun and Athens State have finally come up with plans for an arts school in Downtown Decatur.  This is a very good partnership.  Athens and Decatur need to form better partnerships, because the ones that used to exist have been demolished by the political influence of Huntsville and Madison.  Anyways, I’m very skeptical about this project.  It’s certainly possible, it’s just that I’m expecting an entity to back out, citing the economic state of the country.  All in all, I hope this momentum keeps up.

For now, that’s all I have.  If I think of anything else, I’ll just make another update later.  Right now… time to study!

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Academy plat approved!

Posted by alalto on October 22, 2008


The Decatur Planning Commission approved the plat for the Academy Sports and Outdoors store adjacent to Home Depot along the Beltline. The city council still has to approve the utility vacations, but those are expected to pass easily.

A marketing director for Academy cited the strong/stable economy in Decatur as a big reason that the sports retail giant decided to expand into Decatur. This store will not only be one of the few in Alabama, but it will also be the first in the Huntsville-Decatur Area.

Also, the commission recomended that a large amount of acreage be annexed into the city of Decatur. This comes as a result of the city’s new sewage expansion fund that aids in the extension of sewer lines in order to annex more land into the city. The land being consider is located near Woodall Road along Alabama 20. McDonad’s was the first business to be attracted using the fund.

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Ready for a rebound?

Posted by alalto on October 15, 2008


Is Decatur ready for a rebound in this horrid economy?
(btw, if you only wanna read about Decatur’s economy, just scroll down to the bottom)

I’m thinkin it is. Take a look at the Decatur Daily… If you take out all the stories about what’s happening nationally and you focus on what’s happening in the state, it appears that the economy in Alabama is just business as usual. That’s not to say that there isn’t a problem going on that we just can’t see. There is, we know it. National stock declines have an effect on all publically (sp?) traded companies, and there are a lot of those in Alabama.

First of all, we have been very fortunate. The bank that holds the largest amount of the banking market in Alabama (Regions Financial) has been effected by the economic slump. Forunately for our state, the Southeaster United States isn’t in as bad a shape as the rest of the country. The economic conditions going on will only magnify the Northern cities that are experience a mass exodus of their population. Which cities are these? Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Buffalo. These were the major manufacturing centers of the 20th Century and they’ve been going through a rough time in the past few decades.

Let’s compare these northern cities to some southern ones. New Orleans, Birmingham, Mobile and to some extent Jackson. Detroit and New Orleans, major manufacturing cities, shipping ports and a hub of culture and money. That isn’t so anymore. Pittsburgh and Birmingham. THERE is where you’ll find a HUGE contrast. Read below:

Pittsburgh and Birmingham:

Here’s how I look at it, enormous manufacturing cities all go through I process that I like to call “eating/digesting themselves”. Both Pitt and Bham were huge steel producing cities, so they’re easy to compare. Birmingham has done a fantastic job and the city is in it’s last leg of the digestion process. These cities have to nearly collapse and fail before they can be reborn and turn into regions burgeoning with economic prosperity. Pittsburgh has just begun their journey down the throat. Birmingham was fortunate that when the steel industry in the U.S. began to shrink, the mills went to Pittsburgh. Why was that good? The city had to find a place to create jobs, which is where UAB came in. UAB, the largest employer in the state and a university that has a multi-billion dollar impact on the state’s economy. Yes, Pitt has some great schools, but they have not been the focus of job creation to replace the aging steel industry.

To stop comparing cities, let’s focus on why Alabama is more primed for a rebound than other states. Two main reason, IMO, slow growth (stable economy) and prime developable land.

Take a look at this map:

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McD’s and Annexation

Posted by alalto on October 1, 2008


I was correct about what I read in the paper the other day about what was being considered during the city council meeting. Decatur is getting it’s 4th McDonald’s restaraunt, it will be located on Alabama 20 near Woodall Road.

The developers of the McDonald’s are also planning to annex 130 acres into the city.

This annexation announcement has been brought on by the city’s use of a sewer fund to attract development by helping to cover the cost of sewer service, which is a huge draw to businesses and residential development.

This is the second time the fund has been used since it was created, the first being the 400 unit housing development on Burleson Mountain being built/annexed.

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City seeks downtown grant

Posted by alalto on September 30, 2008


The city council approved 5-0 a venture to ask for a state grant of $400,000 for streetscape work on the lower portion of Bank Street. Improvements would include the conversion of the 4 lanes to 2 lanes, diagonal parking, wider sidewalks, improved lighting and a brick paved median.

All of this would be meant to encourage development along the lower portion of Bank Street, which is key to improving the connection between downtown and Mid-Downtown (Bank Street). Funding is already being gathered for improvements on 2nd Avenue and Lee Street.

Judging by the topics covered in the city council meeting, it appears that a McDonalds (really just someone with the name McDonalds USA) might be locating along Alabama 20. I’ll see if I can figure anything else out.

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