Have you heard the age-old question about which came first the chicken, or the egg? Sure. Have you heard it mentioned in reference to a multi-million-dollar investment downtown? Probably not, at least until Thursday morning.
In an announcement for a proposed $30 million mixed-use development at the Merchants National Bank building, city leaders showed their excitement by referencing the old adage because the project will both provide space for commercial and residential uses.
“So many people ask what will come first (to downtown) shopping, or people,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said. “Which one is the chicken? This project is the chicken and the egg.”
Council President Gina Gregory backed Stimpson up, by agreeing the project was “both” the chicken and the egg that would help the downtown area continue to transform.
“The momentum created downtown translates throughout the rest of the city,” Gregory said. “This is the heartbeat.”
The project, called Merchants Plaza, will include 225,000 square feet in three separate buildings. The buildings will include the main 18-story tower, which will be renovated into 82 loft apartments, Heritage Land and Development President Will Yandell said. Another 8-story building adjacent to the project will be renovated into office space and a third building will be flex space, he said. The first floors of each building will contain retail and restaurant space and the project will also include a parking garage and a surface parking lot, as well.
Yandell said some of Mobile’s recent business success with Austal, Airbus and Amazon recruitment helped the Tennessee-based developer decide to come to the city. He said the city under Stimpson and the Mobile City Council was moving in the right direction.
“We are here because of leadership and where the city is going,” he said. “Without a city that’s vibrant and moving forward, it doesn’t do us any good to come here.”
The development will be taking advantage of both state and federal historic tax credits. City and county officials praised the work of State Rep. Victor Gaston and others in the local delegation for advancing a bill to reinstate the credits in Alabama.
“I want to thank the local delegation,” Mobile County Commission President Merceria Ludgood said. “They rolled up their sleeves and really duked it out on this one. I’m so proud of them.”
About the project’s effect on downtown, Stimpson said he believes it will have the same impact on retail and residential space the RSA Tower had on business downtown.