Over the past few years, officials in Anniston have announced a handful of major building projects. Each of them has the potential to bring traffic and money to the city.
Anniston’s director of economic development and city planning says those projects are moving forward — despite some paperwork-related delays.
1. Freedom Riders National Monument
The site of the former Greyhound bus station is due for a renovation that will have it looking as it did in 1961.
Reginald Tiller, The National Park Service’s superintendent for the monument, said that before work can begin, a Denver-based group must conduct an historic structures report. This document helps builders and architects make the best decisions for restoring a structure. Tiller said he expects to receive that sometime in the spring. After that, the monument can be placed in the National Parks Service’s information management system and start competing with other projects for funding.
The city in 2016 received a $496,000 grant to go toward the monument, but that money is earmarked for work such as streetscaping, project planning or developing the monument’s site on Alabama 202.
Efforts to spend that money are on hold until the city approves its own historical structures report. The City Council voted earlier this month to give the contract for the report to Christian and Associate Architects. But Councilman Ben Little objected to the measure because David Christian, an architect with the firm, is also on the city’s planning and zoning board.
Toby Bennington, director of economic development and city planning for Anniston, said the city’s attorney will speak with the Alabama Ethics Commission concerning any conflict of interest before awarding the contract.
2. Chief Ladiga Trail extension
Officials hope to extend the Chief Ladiga Trail 7 miles farther south into downtown Anniston. The Alabama Department of Transportation recently approved the city’s right-of-way plan for the project.
Bennington said ALDOT officials told him he could expect the plan returned in the first week of March. Once city leaders have it, they can begin the appraisal process of the land needed to extend the pedestrian trail. Bennington said the city already has approved and notified an appraiser, who believes he can get the work done in a short time.
3. Federal Courthouse
The General Services Administration has three potential sites in downtown Anniston chosen as a replacement for the federal courthouse on Noble Street.
Efforts to reach GSA officials were unsuccessful Thursday, but Bennington said GSA representatives and contractors visited the sites a couple of weeks ago to conduct evaluations. He said Anniston leaders expect GSA officials to choose a location in the summer or early fall.
4. Anniston Best Western Plus hotel
Developers for the Best Western Plus Hotel planned at the site of the former Model City Center are working with architects and contractors to draft a plan for building the structure.
The development firm has until January 2019 to start construction on the project, or the property goes back to the city. Bennington said the project is progressing, with architects already calling city officials with inquiries. Bennington said he expects to meet with the project’s overseers this month to go over planning points, such as any historical preservation requirements for the site.
5. Quintard retail development
The city in December 2016 announced that the Birmingham-based Harbert Realty planned to spend $6 million building several fast-casual restaurants and retail shops on Alabama Power-owned land next to the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County. But city officials announced in June 2017 that Harbert had withdrawn from the project.
Bennington said Thursday that Alabama Power and the city’s retail marketing firm, Retail Strategies, have been in contact with the tenants who initially expressed interest in the site. He said he believes those discussions are moving forward.
Efforts to reach Tony Smoke, Alabama Power eastern division vice president, were not immediately successful Thursday.