Around 90 people participated in a community roundtable last week in an attempt to visualize the future of the Fairhope K-1 Center.
Although the paperwork has yet to be finalized, the city of Fairhope recently agreed to purchase the circa 1940s vacant building from the Baldwin County School Board for $4 million, along with a park across the street and the Nix Center for seniors.
In a process moderated by Amy Chester of Rebuild By Design, 11 tables of eight people each worked independently to define the community, field ideas for the property and discuss potential funding to create a collaborative vision statement beginning with the words “By 2030, the K-1 site will be ….”
Community Development Director Sherry-Lea Bloodworth Botop said within the next few days, the city will release the collaborative vision statement in full along with a video, graphic illustration and online survey to “continue the conversation” in a way that will be “fair and transparent.”
Among the more popular proposals emerging during the three-hour process were a performing arts center, an educational enrichment complex, a cultural hub and an event facility. Participants suggested the redevelopment could be paid for with user fees, parking, event revenue, grants and bonds.
John Manelos, speaking on behalf of a group known as the Citizens for Higher Expectations, said he was pleased with the process.
“It was very well attended,” he said. “One of the few times I’ve been to an event to discuss a community issue where it’s been a truly collaborative effort.”
Manelos noted there was some resistance to the process, but ”to their credit, those who were opposed to it showed up.”
“There has to be a substantive outcome where the end product is a presentation of what the greater community wants,” he said. “There was a fear the collective message may not be adequately represented or hijacked, but I heard some comments that it affirmed what [most people] already wanted to do.”
At the Fairhope City Council meeting April 8, Mayor Karin Wilson also praised the roundtable, saying it established “a long-term thought process setting a viable vision” for the property. A suggestion box is also in the Fairhope Public Library at the corner of Fairhope Avenue and Bancroft Street.
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