City presents several options for Civic Center - FOX10 News | WALA

City presents several options for Civic Center

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Mobile Civic Center, Source: FOX 10 News Mobile Civic Center, Source: FOX 10 News

What to do with the Mobile Civic Center??? It was the topic of an open house discussion Monday night hosted by the City of Mobile.

It comes after weeks of meeting with local businesses and stakeholders on the best way to move forward. After reviewing the feedback, options were presented on possible ways to utilize and make the most of the aging facility.

Working with CBRE (commercial real estate firm) and Gensler (architect, design and planning firm), the city presented several options. 

The proposals include:

Arts District -- reusing existing Civic Center theater, or build new orchestra-capable theater as anchor for new district. Provide smaller concert venue(s) to fill unmet demands in Mobile and support a consistent concert scene. 

Multipurpose Arena -- New 5,000 - 10,000 seat multi-purpose venue replaces the existing building. Facility accommodates variable sized events, including Mardi Gras, small/large concerts and entertainment events, indoor athletic events and tournaments. Potentially reuse the existing Civic Center Theater as part of new Arena/Entertainment District.

Mixed-Use Neighborhood -- Mixed use is a component of all options, and may include some combination of the following: Large grocer, such as Fresh Market, to serve existing and new residents. "Lifestyle Center" type retail offerings that complement local LoDa shops and restaurants. 

The other option is the "Status Quo" -- Renovate existing Civic Center Arena, theater, and/or Expo Hall with necessary functional improvements. Develop surface parking lots as mixed-use neighborhood with parking structures to accommodate Civic Center issues.

"So when you go to the far extreme of having an international or national developer come in and build the things that we need plus the things that will make them money - to me it's like the old saying goes "use other people's money." So we need to figure out what does it look like and how do we do that," said Mayor Stimpson.

The options presented are a far cry from Stimpson's proposal in his first term to tear it down and start over. He says after hearing the opposition -- this plan is a transparent and right move forward to utilize the best of what we already have. 

There was a good turnout for a Monday night. Following the presentation, residents were able to go around to the different options and provide feedback on the advantages and disadvantages of each plan. 

"The main concern for me personally is having a theater... an adequate theater in Mobile that is a large size theater. At least 2,000 seats or more, big stage, everything we need to do what we have to do. And not just for my own family's business but for the multiple dance studios here in Mobile that are facing the same issues of where do we go," said Colby Shinn, Family owns and operates Sheffield School of Dance.

"It's crucial for our community to have a theater intact for recitals to take place, for lots of families to be able to come into a large venue, where we can host a yearly recital. There's really no other set-up in town theater-wise for us to put a recital on. So it's really crucial for us to save our theater," said Michelle Meeker, owns Broadway South Dance Studio. 

"There are a lot of options that they presented tonight, but the one I particularly am fond of is the one where we can bring in more businesses and more retail in this area and still maintain an area where Mobile wants to have something like the balls or whatever, where that's still available," said Janis Williams.

Margaret Groves was among a good group concerned about how plans could impact or disrupt Mardi Gras festivities. Many Mardi Gras associations in Mobile rely on the Civic Center to host their celebrations each year.

"They've got some good options and there are a couple I'm not too sure about," said Groves. "Mardi Gras puts a lot of money into Mobile and we've got to have something that stays like it is in order to provide finance to a lot of people. Mardi Gras impacts not only this arena but hotels and restaurants."

The Civic Center is more than 50 years old and sits on 22 acres of property. 

Moving forward, the city along with CBRE and Gensler will take the feedback and draft a design concept, develop RFP, and establish public and private partnership, then begin renovation/construction. The timeline for construction to begin is 2019 - 2020. 

Click here to see the presentation presented Monday night. 

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