Last week, developers for a proposed downtown music venue withdrew their request to the Mobile City Council to overturn the planning commission’s denial of their application to turn the building at 401 Dauphin St. into an establishment similar to a House of Blues. The planning commission has denied the application twice, saying the requested change of occupancy rate from 100 to 850 was excessive for the area. They also said they were worried about noise and traffic issues.
Nearby residents also asked the council to uphold the planning commission’s decision, echoing the concerns about noise and fears it would disrupt the harmony of the neighborhood.
Once owner Buzz Jordan and developer Tom Townsend realized they would not have the votes they needed on the council, they threw in the towel … at least for now.“I guess a dilapidated building fits with the harmony of the neighborhood,” Jordan said.
Some councilors seemed to indicate they were willing to consider a lower occupancy rate but one much lower than 850. But with the building being 9,000 square feet, developers said they couldn’t lower it too much more or it wouldn’t make sense. But they still hoped to find a number they could all agree on, though the council attorney warned decisions such as occupancy should be left to the commission.
The developers must wait six months before they can re-apply.
Hopefully, they will be able to come to an agreement and this venue will come to fruition, not only because it would be such a great addition to downtown but also because it would breathe life back into a building that has been dead for years.
They have plans to put $750,000 to $1 million to restore it to its “1940s luster.” Wowzers!
We covered the ongoing controversy between neighbors and the Alabama Music Box, which was also located in the 400 block of Dauphin. And I can’t say I blame the neighbors for being gun shy. It was an ugly dispute that went on for years and involved videotaping, and allegations of all kinds of sketchy behavior and a lawsuit that finally forced AMB out of business, much to the jubilation of said neighbors.
I am sure the bitter memories of that drama are still fresh in their minds and the thought of having anything on that block that involves an amp and a microphone is a complete non-starter. I think Jesus could propose a new venue designed to showcase his choir of angels and they would say no way Jose’, or rather, Je’sus. But it’s unfortunate the sins of the previous actors will continue to haunt that block which has had a long legacy in Mobile’s music history and possibly prevent responsible folks from coming in and doing it the right way.
I still believe if a different, reasonable party had been involved in the former situation, that drama would not have spiraled out of control. When I was 25 years old, I lived at 458 Dauphin St., right across from the building where Alabama Music Box was. It was Soul Kitchen at the time, and I don’t remember having a single complaint. Of course, I was usually at Soul Kitchen, back when I was young and fun. But I don’t remember my neighbor at the time having any complaints either and he was an older professional with a day job.
But I also think we had reasonable expectations. I never thought I would be able to hear the sound of crickets at night. I wanted to live in the middle of everything at that point in my life. In fact, the balcony that overlooked Soul Kitchen was a huge plus. On the nights we weren’t over there, we would sit outside and listen to the music. It was why I wanted to live there.
Now would I live there now that I’m old and married and have two kids and can barely make it up past 10 p.m.? Not a chance. But if I wanted to live downtown with my family, I would have the option to choose a place in DeTonti or Church Street East, off the beaten path, not right smack dab in the middle of it.
So I have never really understood why people would buy or rent a place right on Dauphin Street and then complain about noise.
Yes, yes, yes, I understand there has to be balance and a happy medium and all that jazz, but I think when you have responsible and respectful business owners and neighbors with reasonable expectations that goal can be achieved. There are plenty of folks already doing it. There are apartments near just about every music venue downtown. And has anyone ever heard of a little place called Callaghan’s? It’s in way more of a residential neighborhood and they somehow achieve neighborhood “harmony.”
It sounds like these developers are doing all of the right things, with a plan for extensive soundproofing and a commitment to abide by the noise ordinance. We’ve worked with HUKA Productions, the company planning to manage the venue, and they have never been anything but totally professional. Many other media outlets have too, and they are currently working with the city of Mobile as well. They aren’t going to jeopardize those relationships by coming in and creating a toxic environment, especially when they know they are going to be doing it under a huge amount of scrutiny.
Unless they are insane, if someone commits to putting nearly a million dollars into a project, they are going to do everything possible to make it a success, and should be given the benefit of the doubt. I think the troublemakers of the past had much less skin in the game.
I know some of the neighbors have said something to the effect of “well these guys may be great but what if they sell it or turn it over to someone who isn’t.”
Well, what IF vagrants break into it one cold winter’s night because it’s vacant and accidentally set fire to it and the whole block burns down? What IF some other “undesirable” business that the planning commission can’t find a reason to legally deny moves in and makes property values plummet? What IF it remains a dilapidated building forever?
What is it they say about ifs and buts and candy and nuts?
This sounds like a much safer gamble.