[Note: This blog post has been updated with new information about the Stirling Properties proposal].
We've known for a while that there are two companies vying for the right to redevelopment the Mobile Civic Center property, replacing that building with something new. But until now, we haven't known what companies are involved, and more important, what they're proposing to do in Downtown Mobile.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson announced the finalists today, and according to al.com, they are Cordish Companies of Baltimore and Louisiana's Stirling Properties. The mayor joined Mobile City Council members John Williams and Fred Richardson in Louisville last week to check out one of the Cordish developments called 4th Street Live! The mayor says this is similar to what the company is proposing for the Civic Center property. While it would be similar, Stimpson adds: "But it would be suitable to Mobile."
So if the Cordish proposal is accepted, we're looking at a dining, entertainment and retail destination.
A closer look at the 4th Street Live! website reveals restaurants like Guy Fieri's Smokehouse, Hard Rock Cafe, and other mostly chain restaurants. Plenty of concerts have also come through the development, including Kid Rock, Goo Goo Dolls, Eric Church, Justin Bieber and 3 Doors Down.
We haven't seen the full proposal yet, so we don't know much about any plans for residential development at the site. Nor do we know the answer to the big question: How would the redevelopment address Mardi Gras activities? A spokesperson for the mayor's office had previously said that Mardi Gras would be accounted for by both companies in their proposals.
We have a lot more info on how the second proposal deals with Mardi Gras. Stirling Properties would keep the Mobile Civic Center open and available for Mardi Gras while a new special events center is built on the property's footprint. There appears to be plenty of room to build a new building in the existing parking lot. John Sharp of al.com writes that this new multipurpose venue would accommodate Broadway shows and sports, like basketball and volleyball tournaments.
The mayor hasn't yet visited a Stirling Properties' example, but the company's Will Barrois tells al.com they worked diligently to stay within the city's guidelines:
“Our project was to leave the existing facility there and in the parking lot, build another facility. Our idea was that Mardi Gras wouldn’t be affected. We spent a lot of time and effort in working within the confines of what the mayor set out to accomplish. In our world, we focused on how to maintain Mardi Gras and in keeping the city streets … and having access to the riverfront and access to downtown.”
NBC-15 has learned that Stirling's proposal, which they're calling Port City Town Center, would eventually include retail, residential, an outdoor amphitheater, and a 118-room hotel. The events center would seat up to 7,800, and the current capacity of the Mobile Civic Center's Arena is listed at 10,112. So we'd get a smaller arena than what the property has currently, but one that's still able to take over as a primary venue for Mardi Gras balls once completed.
The mayor is hoping to select a winning bid as early as next month, and we're hoping that the public has a real opportunity to get a detailed look at the proposals and a chance to discuss the merits of each before a final decision is made. Mobile has its own unique character, and the development that's selected will need to reflect our city.