The purchase of Hill Elementary School for the purpose of redevelopment has been stalled after some members of the Birmingham city council felt they were uninformed on the city’s future development plans, during the council meeting Tuesday.
“Somebody knows that all these things are being planned, but the council doesn’t,” said council member Valarie Abbott.
The confusion from Abbott and council president pro tempore Wardine Alexander came from a proposal allocating $820,000 to the city from its Community Development Block Grant money in order to repurpose Hill Elementary while the city is awaiting federal funding for further development in the area around the school.
“This is an asset that could be an important part of revitalizing Smithfield. So, we don’t have to sit and wait on the federal government, there are bites at the apple we can begin to take,” said Kelvin Datcher, director of intergovernmental affairs.
Abbott said she felt the council needed an overview of all the projects begin planned by the city to purchase abandoned school buildings throughout Birmingham for them to be fully informed on the long-term plan with buying those properties.
“None of us know what the plans are for the city… it seems to me that we are kind of limping along in the dark in city where there are plans for things that have not bee n shared with us,” Abbott said.
Alexander said she needed clarity on the reasons for choosing the specific property when the grant money could be allocated to other areas of the city for revitalization, noting schools in her district that could use the money for development of similar needs.
“I just want to be sure we are being equitable across the various areas… I thought we didn’t want to be in real estate as a city,” Alexander said.
Datcher said he is looking at opportunities for development throughout the city daily and that the city’s best chances of securing more funding and private business partners are with control of the property.
“When we are affirmative and aggressive on acquiring property, things begin to happen,” Datcher said.
Datcher said he felt that the plan would provide immediate help to the Smithfield community as it is in a central location and close to many places that could employ those who live in the housing facility.
“This is a chance to inject some life into that community and into that building,” Datcher said.
Abbott said the proposal became more confusing as the discussion went on and proposed that a presentation of this plan and the city’s future ones be held at a meeting soon for more information.
The council voted to move the item to the Committee of the Whole, with council president William Parker saying, “There seems to be some unreadiness on this item.”
In other business, the council approved:
- A $50,000 purchase of the former site of Ensley High School to Zimmerman Properties SE, LLC from the City.
- An agreement wit ZOOM Motorsports to manage and host the Indy Racing League event.
- An approval of MetLife Insurance Company to purchase Basic Group Term Life and AD&D Insurance and Voluntary Term Life and AD&D Insurance for the next year.
The next city council meeting will be held on April 27 at 9:30 a.m. on the Birmingham City Council Facebook page. The date of the Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss the development plans has not yet been set.