Alabaster plans for growth

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 19, 2004

On the heels of an informal public meeting to plan the next 25 years of growth for Alabaster last week, ground was broken Friday on what is being called the &uot;largest shopping center in Shelby County&uot; and which is anticipated to generate necessary revenues to help the city

fund that growth.

The shopping center to be built in the Interstate 65, Exit 238 re-development area of Alabaster is expected to have a construction impact of $67 million and to generate more than $5 million per year in revenues for the city.

Joey Hester, a planner with the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, said during an informal comprehensive plan meeting last Thursday, that Alabaster will see a population increase of 20,000 people by the year 2025.

He said that will bring the city’s total population to an estimated 42,000 persons.

Hester told those who attended the meeting that

the city is looking at designs and land use. City Councilmember Tommy Ryals said items discussed (village centers, green centers, a town center, cultural district, historic district, walking trails etc.) are only suggestions at this point and that public input is being sought.

Hester explained that a village center is a mixed use development with a small town feel much like the Old Town Helena concept.

There would be professional offices, apartments in which people could walk to neighborhood businesses and back home.

Hester said the city could use such areas as village centers to channel the direction of development.

But Mayor David Frings reported that the lion’s share of

funding for the future growth of the city will come from sales tax and ad valorem taxes.

The next morning Colonial Properties Trust broke ground in the Interstate 65, Exit 238 redevelopment area of Alabaster for what

Frings called &uot;the largest shopping center in Shelby County.&uot;

Frings pointed out that while the actual ground breaking ceremony took place near the site of a proposed town center which is expected to include a city hall and police station and recreation center with possible library and civic center, the first actual concrete pad to be poured was at the far end of the development for AmStar Cinemas.

He said he expected that theater to be open by next June.

In addition to AmStar, Wal-Mart, Belk and Lowe’s, which were already announced, Retail Development executive Brian Ratliff of Colonial Trust Properties announced that

Old Navy, a Murphy Oil Corporation gas station and other tenants including SouthTrust Bank, Aliant Bank, Ruby Tuesday and Chick Fil-A are committed to the development as well.

Ryals said the only way to make up lost revenues on the cost of city services is through sales tax.

And Frings stressed &uot;what you can build and what you can do&uot; is dependent upon &uot;what you bring in.&uot;

During last Friday’s ground breaking, Frings said he has been working to recruit business to Alabaster since he was a city volunteer some nine years ago.

He also stressed, standing at the future site of the Interstate 65, Exit 238 development, &uot;We’re not stopping here.&uot;

Ryals acknowledged that drawings to date show a proposed town center in the vicinity of the redevelopment area.

And he said the site is &uot;one of a few places in the city we have a clear place.&uot;

He said otherwise &uot;the city will have to tear down a lot of stuff.&uot;

The city has already purchased 10 acres of land next to the shopping center and has an option to purchase 15 more.

Cam Ward, executive director of the Industrial Development Board of Alabaster, said of the I-65, Exit 238 shopping center, &uot;This is the single biggest moment in Alabaster’s 50-year history. We have needed real economic development

for decades now and it’s finally here.&uot;

The Colonial Properties Trust’s $75 million development is expected to encompass 685,000 square feet with the potential for future growth