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Old 09-27-2007, 09:12 AM
Location: Historic Bessemer Alabama
629 posts, read 3,589,796 times
Reputation: 490


The Bessemer City Council defeated the Mayor Ed May's water bond ordinance last night, and passed the one that Dorothy Davidson brought forth. This is interesting. On the one hand, the issue could be put to rest. We do not know the interest rate on this bond deal, so we don't know if rates will be affected. But it could keep the city from having to borrow $4.5 million to pay for completing the pipeline to Alabaster, which would raise rates for sure. The entire measure was a $26 million dollar bond, because it refinanced old Bessemer Water service debt as well as financing the new water line.

On the other hand, the mayor was very adamant about this being a "good vs. evil" situation, and does not want to do business with Walter Lewis and Gardnyr Michael Capital for a couple of reasons. Gardnyr Michael is the subject of a lawsuit by the city with Bessemer claiming the company defrauded the city to the tune of $1.3 million or so. (Where did the money land? Keep you eyes and ears open!) In addition, the mayor and dissenting councilors do not want to pay Walter Lewis for work he did not do. Bill Blount of Bount Parrish & Company did the leg work to get the 4.5% interest rate on the proposed bond (the rate later went up to 4.8%, and who knows what it is now). Why should Lewis get the credit (and the money)?

Walter Lewis does a lot of business with the city. Louise Alexander said in council the other day that Lewis handled the bonds for Exit 108 development (that's huge...Academy Drive), the Airport, Colonial Tannehill, now the Water Service. Jesse Matthews said he's "married" to Walter Lewis. Walter Lewis claims to have more power than the mayor. Something's not right.

The mayor could veto this deal, depending on how strongly he feels about not doing business with "evil."

Stay tuned.

But Bessemer will finally get the movie theater we've been waiting on for years. Colonial Properties claimed they could not court the theater to build the facility unless they got another million bucks from the city. This has been discussed for at least three meetings, and Tuesday the council denied the gift, with Alexander suggesting they roll another million into the tax incentive bond deal that Colonial already has. But the Colonial rep Brad did a good job of explaining how adding a million to the existing bond will cost a quarter of a million in legal fees and administrative charges, which would become tax incentive money thrown away. And he told them that a theater complex adds a regionality to the center, and would attract customers who would also eat dinner and might buy their kids a pair of shoes on the same trip. I heard "quality of life issue" time and time again. The kicker was when a former resolution was read that revealed the million bucks was coming from an account that could only be used for industrial and commercial development. Alexander had said that the million could be used for raises and other city services...but after learning this and seeing the figures, she and Davidson and others changed their votes and approved the deal 7-0.

Here is the preliminary site plan...sort of hard to read unless you print it, but on this map the cinemas are over to the right. Target is the big anchor in the middle. It doesn't show on this map, but Publix is locating there also. Site Map
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Old 09-27-2007, 09:14 AM
Location: Historic Bessemer Alabama
629 posts, read 3,589,796 times
Reputation: 490
Last night's meeting of the Bessemer Downtown Redevelopment Authority and Auburn University's School of Architecture Urban Studio regarding a plan for downtown was a huge success. It was benefical to have input and suggestions from a group of people who do not have tunnel vision because of their poor opinions of our city and their unwillingness to look outside of the box that Bessemer is stuck in.

If you were there, you know who I'm talking about.

More than 100,000 cars a day pass by our city on the interstate, and currently there is nothing to lure them off the highway. No destination, and not sign to direct them even if there was something there to attract them.

Among the highlights of the presentation were a railroad park along the tracks, changing the Depot to a welcome center, and linking the park via an extended trestle to be used as a bike and walking trail, to other trails and parks, including eventually Red Mountain Park. Pavilions and a restuarant would make the park inviting and user friendly.

The Hall of History would be moved to a new site and combined with a Fire Fighters museum that could display the wealth of old Fire Trucks and such that are in storage, along with an enhanced railroad related museum and Bessemer history museum.

Another major change would be doing away with one way streets (18th and 19th). I agree. Their studies show that doing that would increase availiable parking and make the downtown more pedestrian friendly. Also two way streets tend to slow traffic down and make drivers more likely to stop rather than just racing through.

Tearing the tacky siding off the downtown buildings and revealing and restoring their historic architecture would be another major change.

Probably the most controversial suggestion is to move the flea market to the edge of downtown around 22 street (I didn't see exactly where) to bring more life to the area on weekends.

Lots of green space and greenways. Uncovering cobblestone on some of the avenues.

One disappointment was the lack of city officials at the event. Sarah Belcher was the only current elected official there. However there was one unannounced potential 2010 mayoral candidate there.

The Urban Studio will return in mid October with the final product, including poster size maps with drawings and descriptions that can act as a beginning, not a finished product of how Bessemer will be. After that it will be up to progressive, forard looking residents, business leaders and city officials to get any of the ideas to become reality. The can-dos have to outnumber the can't-dos, and right now I am not sure they do. But that can change.
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Old 09-27-2007, 09:15 AM
Location: Historic Bessemer Alabama
629 posts, read 3,589,796 times
Reputation: 490
One visit to a Bessemer City Council is all it takes to realize that DNC does not stand for Democratic National Committee; it stands for Do Nothing Council.

On Tuesday, September 11, the Bessemer City Council reconvened to finish up a meeting they started the week before. With one item remaining uncompleted, a public hearing about incentives for a proposed movie theatre, the meeting was over almost before it started, since no one from the public was there to speak on the issue.

But plenty of people were there to speak about the bond issue that needs to be passed so Bessemer can fulfill its obligation to build a $4.5 million water line to Alabaster. Once completed, the substantial amount of water piped to that city will bring welcome revenue to Bessemer.

But they refused to hear us. They adjourned and went in to a planning session. We followed them. While citizen participation is not a regular part of planning sessions, there is plenty that citizens can learn from attending.

Take the proposed noise ordinance, for instance. The council has been considering this for years, and a revised ordinance has been before them for months. Will it ever be enacted?

Or the smoking ordinance. No one denies the ordinance would be good for the health of Bessemer residents, and in many cities restaurant business is unaffected or actually increases after such laws are enacted. A published review of 97 studies on the economic effects of smoking ordinances backs this up. But our council has delayed passage of the ordinance and once something is delayed, who knows what will happen.

Back to the water bond issue. By now, the council has met again and maybe this issue is resolved. But not without a great effort by the Bessemer Neighborhood Association and others concerned about rising utility bills. The only reason the Association took the actions they did; handing out flyers, protesting, sending faxes and making calls, was because of council members who were putting the interest of one person above that of 30,000 residents of Bessemer and other Bessemer Water Service Customers.

Elected officials need to be reminded from time to time why they are in the positions they have been elected to, and who put them there. I hope our efforts were successful. If not, more reminders and more action will be in store.
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Old 09-27-2007, 09:16 AM
Location: Historic Bessemer Alabama
629 posts, read 3,589,796 times
Reputation: 490
So Bessemer is finally going to get a movie theater! This past Thursday the City Council voted unanimously to give Colonial Properties one million dollars to help close the deal that will bring a first class theater complex to the new development going up near Eastern Valley Road and I-459.

Bessemer has been fighting to get a theater as long as I have lived here, and deal after deal has fallen through. This one looks like it will stick.

Time after time I heard the phrase “quality of life issue” during the debate over the past several weeks. Quality of life is something that catches my attention, as the mission statement of the Bessemer Neighborhood Association states to “improve the quality of life throughout Bessemer and its surrounding communities.” The association realizes that many things affect our quality of life, from the threat of violence to water rates to government corruption and more. As we learned from the council meetings this week and last, the way our tax money is spent (or wasted) certainly affects our quality of life.

A movie theater gives kids, teenagers, and adults a place to go for local entertainment. It will produce tax revenue both directly and indirectly as movie goers also stop to eat out or shop at Target or other stores at Colonial Promenade Tannehill.

The council was hesitant until they realized that the money was to come from an account that could only be used for commercial or industrial development.

Since our quality of life will be better, let’s just hope that Hollywood takes notice and we also see “quality of film” improve. The last two year’s Oscar winners for best picture were about urban racial conflict (“Crash”) and organized crime and police corruption (“The Departed”). Although good movies, we don’t want to give our citizens and officials any ideas.
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Old 09-27-2007, 09:17 AM
763 posts, read 3,822,538 times
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I would love to see a revival of Bessemer!

Glad to see your post...I go to Bessemer several times a year and it has a lot of potential...
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Old 09-27-2007, 09:21 AM
Location: Historic Bessemer Alabama
629 posts, read 3,589,796 times
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We are on our way.

A few sites you can check out are

bessemerneighbors.com (broken link)

Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association
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Old 09-27-2007, 03:45 PM
23,517 posts, read 69,907,878 times
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"A movie theater gives kids, teenagers, and adults a place to go for local entertainment. It will produce tax revenue both directly and indirectly as movie goers also stop to eat out or shop at Target or other stores at Colonial Promenade Tannehill."

Who is the deal with? Cobb, Regal, Ameristar?

I know movie theatres, and I know how they have done in the area. At one time I even attempted to revive the Lincoln as a dollar theatre. I also know the attempts that others, like Magic Johnson, have made in the industry. I noted on a recent visit how the Colonades Theatre, less than 20 years old, had recently been demolished. I remember how theatres in Centerpoint were built in the 1980s and both went out of business within ten years.

Forget what lines are being fed to you. Family entertainment? Family entertainment is possible only when moviemakers make movies that appeal to pre-teens, teens, and parents. Those movies are few and far between. Bring back the classics? Impossible, due to distribution rights and leaglities. Art films? In Bessemer? Art films won't even be tried, and even if they were, they require dedicating two auditoriums against the pressures of the distributors for multiple screens for Halloween 42.

Walk into any other multiplex in a three state area and you'll see the same line-up of films. Walk into a number of them, like I have, and you'll note the different mix of the audiences. I've seen what happens in theatres over time.

When the theatre is brand new and clean, there will be a lot of people coming to check it out. Of those, some will never return. Of the ones that do like the place, they will return if the price is right, and the atmospere is right, and their comfort level is not disturbed. That means a minimum of security on weeknights and armed police on busy weekend nights. As soon as cars are vandalized, kids start acting out in the auditoriums, or cell phone addicts are allowed to run rampant, the "good" audience will leave. At some point, the film buyer will start to see that teen films make the most money, and the booking will reflect a perponderance of slasher, petit porn, and juvinile humor based films. Then, a film will get shown that appeals to gangs and there will be a shooting or stabbing in or near the theatre. At that point, the theatre will no longer be making money, quickly slide into disrepair, and become a public nusence.

Now, about those people eating at restaurants before or after the movie. In over 25 years of direct involvement with theatres, I will flat out say that less than 5% of any audience does this, while maybe as much as 30% will stop by a fast food drive-thru before or after seeing a film. There is usually enough business that a small restaurant nearby can survive if it can cater to the audience, but there is no big influx of money from a theatre.

What developers like is the name power that a theatre can lend, based on the public's unrealistic expectations. They also know that theatres generally fill the parking lots at times when most other merchants are closed or doing minimal business.

Theatre owners have become more saavy about marginal situations. My guess is that the deal goes roughly "We'll build a theatre in your city, but we don't have the front money. You will need to sell us the property for a dollar and allow us to build a theatre to our specifications. Once it is built, you will then buy the theatre back for the cost of construction (roughly $1,000,000 to $8,000,000 depending on the theatre), and give us an exclusive lease-back, where we pay $X per month or a percentage of the boxoffice, whichever is less." There are urban development grants that address situations like this, where taxpayer money loosely pays for private enterprise.

Is it a good deal? I guess the answer depends on how much you want a theatre. Is it an ethical use of taxes? There are too many issues involved to say one way or the other. Personally, I don't think it is right.

Having been privy to a lot of insider conversations, I do know that the amount of attention any company like Cobb or Regal will pay to a theatre is in direct proportion to the amount of profit it makes and whether it is in the "A" list of properties. If the theatre doesn't do well, it'll be forgotton and a second or third string manager will be assigned to run it.
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Old 09-27-2007, 04:31 PM
Location: Madison, AL
410 posts, read 1,646,636 times
Reputation: 129
Following up on HP's remarks, having worked for commercial real estate developers, I would caution the citizens of Bessemer to be very careful about signing enterprise zone and tax deals with developers. Sometimes, these deals are needed to make the project financially attractive enough to get a good thing to happen in a area that needs it. Many times, though, they are merely lining the pockets of the developers at the expense of the local taxpayers.

Saying a bond referendum prevents borrowing money is an oxymoron.. Either way, the taxpayers pay for the money and for the interest.

Bessemer seems to be benefiting from close scrutiny and the vigilance of it's citizens. Keep up the good work.
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Old 09-28-2007, 01:10 AM
Location: Historic Bessemer Alabama
629 posts, read 3,589,796 times
Reputation: 490
Thanks so much for your insight!

I am not sure who the operstor is. I do know that Colonial Properties lost the first operator for whatever reason and the new one they have attracted would not operate out of the structure Colonial proposed to build. They wanted a high end theatre and this is why Colonial asked for the extra 2 mil...........they only got 1 mil............

Colonial is the developer who built th Trussville area with the Target and all the pther places on the hill............they also developed the Colonial Prominade on hwy 31 in Alabaster...........exit 108 in Bessemer is supposed to be the same size project as Trussville.
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Old 09-28-2007, 08:10 AM
Location: Historic Bessemer Alabama
629 posts, read 3,589,796 times
Reputation: 490
Default The following comes from someone more "in the know"

I can tell you that the former deal that fell through was with AmStar, so I doubt that it's them.

From a consumer standpoint, you are right too. But I know that I would rather go to Rave at Patton Creek or Vestavia fighting traffic and distance than got to Wynnsong right down the street. Even if the same film is showing, like you say.

Yes I say family entertainment. My kids go to movies all the time. When they were young, we went to Ninja Turtle movies, Disney animations, Santa Claus movies...probably one or two movies a month. Now that they are older (17 and 21) they still go to movies quite often, especially my daughter.

When I went to see Hairspray I was surprised at the number of older people (I mean older than me, in their 50's and 60's) there. Same for Dreamgirls.

I don't expect art films or classics.

Colonial said the same thing you did about theatre's name power bringing in people. That was part of their argument. This deal does not have any buy back clause. Colonial is stuck with it if it fails.

I may be wrong, but I think this theatre will do well. Not everyone likes going to Patton Creek, even kids in Hoover that my daughter hangs with.

As for the money, like I said, it could only be used for commercial or industrial development, and there are arguments for and against every such project.
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