Company has new plans for Pelham property off I-65

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The new owner of a property sandwiched between U.S. 31 and Interstate 65 once considered for a large Pelham outdoor shopping complex is taking a different approach toward developing the heavily wooded land.

The Birmingham-based Smith Land Investments company recently purchased the more than 200-acre property from Fifth Third Bank, which held the deed for the land. The property was previously owned by AIG Baker, which purchased the plot in 2004 and planned to develop a large shopping center similar to Alabaster’s current Colonial Promenade.

AIG Baker originally planned to grade much of the property, which contains a mountain and a stream, but Smith Land Investments is taking a different approach.

“We were able to buy it from Fifth Third Bank, and we got a pretty good deal,” said Connor Farmer, with the Farmer Keith company, which is helping Smith Land Investments to market the land to potential developers.

“We are looking at less density than what AIG was proposing, so we won’t have to mass-grade the land,” Farmer added.

The property has frontage on both U.S. 31 and I-65, but a railroad track surrounding the north and east sides of the property limits access from I-65 and Shelby County 52. Farmer said he is trying to attract retail developments to the U.S. 31 side of the property, which he said will provide the easiest access for customers.

“We are looking at selling 1- to 6-acre sites to retail companies on the 31 side. All access to the property would be from 31,” Farmer said. “We would like to put some larger sites in the back of the property near I-65 and a larger site up on the ridge.”

Farmer said he is looking to recruit anything from car dealerships to heavy equipment companies to come to the property.

“Basically, you can’t find an undeveloped tract that large along I-65 in the Birmingham area,” Farmer said. “We have a lot of different options.”

Pelham Mayor Don Murphy said he is glad to see a renewed interest in the property.

“I’m glad to see activity, as far as getting people to look at it. You’ve got to have lookers before you can have buyers,” Murphy said. “Anything that would benefit the city of Pelham, I am in favor of it.”