After years of debate, Mobilians might soon find out what’s going to happen to the Civic Center.
It’s a question that has plagued Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration for almost his entire time in office, but on Monday, Sept. 24, the city released a request for qualifications, signaling the start of the marketing process for the 54-year-old structure and adjoining property.
The city will accept RFQs for a mixed-use development on the property until early November, according to a statement from CBRE, the firm selected to lead the redevelopment process.
“The city of Mobile is looking to attract investment activity to this underused site with the goal to connect the site to downtown and the waterfront and improve the city’s downtown core,” CBRE Executive Vice President Mike McShea said in the statement. “Working with Mayor Sandy Stimpson and the City Council has been a true pleasure. Such progressive and good fiduciary stewards of the city’s valuable, prime real estate are adamant to making this redevelopment a success.”
The current site contains an arena, an exhibition hall and a theater. The 80,000-square-foot facility seats up to 10,000 people and includes 15 meeting rooms. In addition, it hosts a number of the city’s larger Mardi Gras societies, which became an issue when Stimpson announced his initial plans for the site in 2015.
At that time, Stimpson announced the facility would be closing in April 2016 because it was too costly to keep open and any renovation would require $400,000 in upgrades to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He revised those plans in November 2015, stating the site would remain open until at least March 2018.
In a statement released last month, Stimpson’s office indicated any new plan for the property would include space to host Mardi Gras balls. Marketing the site would attempt to find a more cost-effective solution to the Civic Center, which Stimpson’s office has said currently runs a deficit.
The project has now received community feedback and initial ideas include an arena concept surrounded by office and retail space.
“We’re looking forward to finding the best civic and mixed uses for this central property and are excited to help evaluate creative development proposals that will improve Mobile’s downtown area,” CBRE Senior Vice President David Fullington said.
There was also a set of plans that included a baseball stadium, but CBRE officials told councilors that option would be less appealing.
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