Downtown businesses weigh in on Civic Center proposals

Mobile County

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Downtown Mobile businesses are weighing in on the efforts to redevelop the Civic Center. Earlier this week, two proposals for the property were shown to the Mobile City Council.

“Are we filling a need for those things,” said David Rasp, the owner, and operator of Heroes’ Downtown and Royal Scam.

The city unveiled the proposals on Monday.

“If renovation is not an option at all, to create something that truly meets the need, the need of the Mardi Gras organizations and something that will work in conjunction with the wishes and concerns of the residents in the area,” said Rasp.

One concept, made by Stirling, would keep an arena and potentially add in other facilities, like apartment buildings, or a grocery store. It would cost roughly $66 million. The second proposal, made by Cordish, would be a more open-air concept. Restaurants and shopping would surround an entertainment district. Cordish has not provided the cost of their plans yet. With Cordish’s plans, they would “provide many of the tenants to jump-start leasing and maintain occupancy,” according to the proposal.

The city has provided the plans presented to the council. You can see the plans here.

Some business owners downtown don’t see the plans as viable options.

“What we’re trying to do here, it seems, is create demand by building these facilities, and that’s not really the way that works. Sometimes, if you build it, they won’t come,” said Rasp.

“Until you have the residents to support that much more retail and restaurant, then somebody is going to struggle,” said Carol Hunter, the Communications Director of the Downtown Mobile Alliance.

The Civic Center is 50 years old and in need of significant repair. The city says repairing the current facilities would cost $34 million, plus an additional $13 million over 10 years.

There are already plans for the renovations of the current facility.

Renovation plans for the current facility

“We would hope that the city would consider option C, and look at spending and investing that kind of money in a civic asset that has served the city well for many years,” said Hunter.

Both plans are currently just a concept and are not the final proposal.

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