PELL CITY – People gathered at the Pell City Civic Center offering all sorts of suggestions as to how to best use the former Avondale Mills property.
“I hope it keeps up,” said City Manager Patrick Draper as he looked around the banquet room inside the civic center. “We’re barely 40 minutes into this, and we have about 40 people here.”
City officials held an informal meeting to get public input as to how to best develop the 28-acre former Avondale Mills property near the Mill Village.
The city bought all of the former Avondale Mills property inside the city limits last year, including the former plant site, for $1 million.
“Whatever we have there, it should be for everybody, not just for a few,” said Pell City resident Foster Drummonds.
Drummonds said he is not originally from Pell City.
“I was raised in Eden – God’s country,” he said.
His wife, Brownie Drummonds, was talking to one of the architects who are helping the city plan the development of the property.
“She’s going to give him the whole history,” said her friend, Carole DeGrenier.
DeGrenier said her friend’s late father was the personnel manager for Avondale Mills before he retired.
DeGrenier, who is originally from Massachusetts, said she would like to see a swimming pool included in the development.
Drummonds said people should think about children when developing the former textile mill site.
“It would be nice to have a water park for kids to play in,” he said.
Ken Shelton of Pell City said his great grandfather was raised around the Avondale Mills property and community.
“We’re talking about the '30s,” he said.
Shelton had some big plans for the property.
“You are probably going to think I’m crazy,” Shelton said. “I would like to see an underground venue there.”
He said the underground venue could have stores and restaurants with an above-ground water park.
Shelton said the old Avondale water tank could play into the development of a water park, as well.
“Let’s not forget the kids,” he said.
Shelton said the park is so big, developers could have a small train with tracks to circle the park for children to ride.
“Whatever we put there, it should be an inviting atmosphere, a place where people will want to come and participate,” Shelton said.
Artist Susan Hazzard of Cropwell said she would like to see a first-class art gallery on the property, something like the Comer Museum in Sylacauga or Heritage Hall Museum in Talladega.
Other uses she suggested were the construction of an amphitheater, botanical garden and a music conservatory.
She envisions a place where large crowds would gather for art festivals and other social activities.
“The property has good accessibility,” she said.
Councilwoman Sharon Thomas, who is the chairperson for the Avondale Mills Planning Committee, estimated that about 175 people participated in Tuesday’s meeting.
“We were extremely pleased with the turnout,” she said. “Everybody had some really good ideas.”
Thomas said most people wanted green space.
“A lot of people wanted putt-putt golf,” she said. “Basically, people wanted things to do, where they could bring their children or seniors to enjoy the day.”
Some other ideas that surfaced at the public meeting were a dinner theater and a bowling alley.
“One man suggested building a multi-use building for conventions, rodeos and other events,” Thomas said. “One thing people did not want was another fast food restaurant or hotel.”
She said some people wanted walking or biking trails and a museum.
Thomas said the property could have multiple uses, and this is just the start of the planning process.
“We’re just collecting ideas right now,” she said. “We want to make sure we get this right.”
Contact David Atchison at email@example.com.