JACKSONVILLE — City planning officials on Thursday approved a blueprint for the long-term development of Jacksonville that proposes a new retail and residential district.
Called the Mountain Street district, it would allow for controlled development of property across from the JSU Stadium. The proposed district is part of a larger comprehensive plan that offers guidelines to the city’s retail, residential and industrial areas.
The Jacksonville Planning Commission approved the comprehensive plan during its Thursday meeting. The plan must receive final approval from the Jacksonville City Council before its adoption.
The plan, which the commission developed over the last four years with the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission in Anniston, includes public input and is a guide for growth and development of the city through 2027. The plan includes an inventory and assessment of population and economic trends and community resources.
“It’s turned out as we expected it to,” said Tommy Thompson, chairman of the commission and chief of the Jacksonville Police Department. “We took what we had and developed on it to match the direction of where growth was in the city.”
Thompson said the proposed Mountain Street District is just part of a larger guide of how the commission and the public want the city to develop economically. Besides the new district, the plan calls for more development of the city square and Alabama 21, and lays out ways to accomplish that goal.
“If there’s no plan, you’re never going to get there,” Thompson said.
The proposed Mountain Street district includes most of the property inside the borders of Mountain Street NW, from its intersection with Alabama 21 to the Jacksonville Train Depot; Woodward Avenue NW from the depot to Francis Street W; Francis from Woodward to Iola Drive NW.
The property in question is currently a hodgepodge of residential and retail development districts.
Jarrod Simmons, city administrator, said the proposed district would place restrictions on future building designs there to create a more uniformed look. It would also ease parking restrictions and allow for buildings with retail and commercial on the bottom floors and residential on the top floors. The district would also forbid many types of developments, such as motels, fraternities and car dealerships.
“It gives a set of guidelines to protect investment that’s going in,” Simmons said. “If an investor is going to sink in millions of dollars, they want to know someone is not going in next door and just putting in whatever.”
Mark Stephens, planning and development coordinator for the city, who attended the meeting, said the new district was suggested in recent years by members of the public. Stephens said Jacksonville State University administrators have also shown interest in the proposed district.
Stephens noted, however, that development of the district would likely be a long, complicated process since it includes 128 pieces of property owned by 88 individuals.
“That would make it a challenge,” Stephens said. “But if somebody can make it happen, I think it’ll be great.”
Stephens said even with the plan, it’ll be up to the commission to decide later if the district will become a reality.
“We have a whole section of new design standards for Mountain Street, but the choice is going to have to be made, ‘do you want to do this,’” Stephens said.
Staff Writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.