By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
The City of Gadsden voted to approve the design of plans to renovate the old K-Mart building on George Wallace Drive in Gadsden at the city council meeting on Tuesday, January 10.
The measure is a continuation of the city’s plans to develop the riverfront property at Coosa Landing. The first project towards developing Coosa Landing was the Riverwalk, which the city announced was officially open at the January 10 city council meeting. The Riverwalk includes more than a mile of boardwalk paths on the east side of the river, piers, docks, a pedestrian bridge, a pavillion, and concrete and gravel paths, with lights. The $2.5 million dollar project provides fishing access for residents, and opens up the city for fishing tournaments and other events.
“Most cities would kill to have a river running right through downtown,” said Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton.
The city has discussed riverfront projects for 20 years, but had trouble driving the development of the riverfront area.
“I think that it was a good strategy to start gaining ownership interest in that area so we could start driving development,” said Gadsden City Council President Deverick Williams.
The renovated K-Mart building will be a large venue and event space, which will serve as a modern replacement for Convention Hall. The renovated space will also allow for a “next generation public-private partnership” by including areas that will be available for private businesses to lease. The city has received interest from businesses already, though no one has committed to move into the space yet.
“Activity breeds business, and more business comes from business,” said Guyton. “When people start seeing something happening, there is going to be a lot of interest.”
In addition to renovating the building, the parking lot will also be updated, with rough plans to add landscaped islands to break up the mass of concrete. The front of the building is planned to have modern decorations, including metal panels on the front and bright colors to liven the space.
Councilwoman Cynthia Toles introduced the motion to authorize Birmingham firm Cohen Carnaggio Reynolds to draw up the renovation plans.
The motion passed with unanamous consent.
Guyton thanked Shane Ellison, his administrative assistant and Frankie Davis, the Governmental Affairs and Economic Development Department head, for their hard work in making the development happen.
“This is something exciting for the city, said Toles. “We are excited about it as a city council. Let’s just say Gadsden is on the move. We finally decided to do something with the river we live on.”