Arts incubator coming to Montevallo?
By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer
MONTEVALLO – Residents filled Montevallo City Hall to discuss possible uses for the Victory Auto building during a Finance Committee meeting Jan. 30.
Mayor Hollie Cost said the building, which is located adjacent to City Hall and has been vacant for at least five years, is a “detractor to visitors and an eyesore in its current state.”
Architect David Reese with TurnerBatson Architects presented a possible use for the 11,000-square-foot building.
According to the proposed plan, City Hall facilities could expand into an 18-by-80-foot space of the vacant building. The expansion would contain shared space, including ADA-approved restrooms, a conference area, a break room and storage space, for both City Hall and whatever entity fills the rest of the building.
The Montevallo Arts Council proposed an “arts incubator” or “fabrication lab” for the remaining space.
The fabrication lab potentially would be a “melding of science, art and architecture,” according to Montevallo Arts Council Board member Elisabeth Pallathy.
Pallathy said the facility could have a laser etcher, rapid prototyping machine and CNC cutter, of which there are only two in the Birmingham area.
The facility would attract engineers, architects, artists and “intense hobbyists,” Pallathy said, as well as be available for both university and younger students.
“I think it’s time our students get an edge in Montevallo they’ve never had before,” Cost said.
Cost also proposed the vacant building could be used commercially as a theater, antique mall, crafts guild-art market or for civic uses such as a community center or police department expansion.
Council member Dee Woodham, a member of the finance committee, said she is interested in the idea, but has reservations about the cost.
The building’s asking price for the city is $500,000, according to City Clerk Herman Lehman.
“There are a lot of things that need to be done,” Council member Don Hughes said. “I’d like to see what we’ve got hung out there (in terms of other capital projects).”
Woodham said she has reservations since a grant for the city’s new fire truck hasn’t come through yet and other buildings need maintenance, such as the Parnell Memorial Library roof. The funding for both projects comes from the city’s general fund budget.
Additionally, Woodham said she was concerned about paying the full asking price for property “that’s been vacant for five to six years.”
“I think the project is wonderful, but we need to think about other capital projects and look at the true economics about this proposal,” Woodham said.
In the Montevallo Arts Council’s business plan for the incubator, the arts council would lease the space from the city and would be responsible for raising funds to equip, maintain and operate the facility.
Steve Gilbert of the Montevallo Arts Council Board said the board does not “desire to place an undue financial burden on the city to have this project.”
“I think it’s an interesting marriage between the city and the community,” Gilbert said, noting the building purchase would fill a need for City Hall’s facilities.
“I think the benefits far outweigh the financial cost, but I understand paying the numbers down too,” he added.
The Finance Committee requested additional financial information from the Montevallo Arts Council, including a report on potential tax revenue impact. The committee also requested the budget for the City Hall improvements and expansion.
The City Council will discuss the project at its Feb. 11 meeting, which is prior to the next Financial Committee meeting, according to Cost.
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