The family of San Francisco Giants pitcher Jake Peavy and a downtown advocacy group are at odds over plans for a mid-19th century building on Dauphin Street that has structural integrity problems.
Elizabeth Stevens, president and CEO of the Downtown Mobile Alliance, said last week the owners are looking to tear down the old Key Loan building at the intersection of Dauphin and Cedar streets as part of their plans to redevelop it. The Alliance has asked the owners instead to brace an unstable wall before any other redevelopment plans proceed.
“It’s one of those uniquely Mobile buildings which we have too few of,” Stevens said. “We’ve offered to pay for part of a stabilization plan.”
Stevens said the Alliance is opposed to tearing down any more 19th century buildings downtown. She also suggested stabilizing the west facing wall would be more cost effective than demolishing and rebuilding the structure.
Trey Langus, the developer of the property, said the owners aren’t quite sure of the exact plans for the building, which dates to the 1850s. Langus said they had discussed rehabbing the building by pulling one or more of the walls down and building it back up using the same bricks and materials.
“Our vision is in line with Elizabeth’s,” Langus said.
The owners, BJE Entertainment, eventually want to use the building to host musicians who record at nearby Dauphin Street Sound, Langus said. Work is currently being done in the back of the building to build out a practice space as well. The space will complement the entire block of buildings, where Langus is currently looking for tenants.
“We’re visualizing that this could be a neighborhood, like Nashville in the 1940s and 1950s,” he said. “We’re hoping to bring in artists to live down there and create a neighborhood.”
Langus said when the building was purchased they were told the problem with the wall was cosmetic. It wasn’t until later it was discovered that the outside wall was actually moving.
“We’re not here to tear down a historic building,” Langus said. “We’re not close-minded. We were going in there to restore it.”
The owners are currently studying their options, Langus said.
Despite Langus’ assurances, members of the Alliance held a rally for the building Monday afternoon, briefly standing on Dauphin Street holding up signs reading “Save This Place” over the objection of Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration and at least one downtown business owner.
Chief of Staff Colby Cooper said the administration supports the Peavy family’s plans and wants to help them make it easier, not stand in their way.
“The city is worried about the end game,” Cooper said. “The city and the developer have a good working relationship … We want to help them redevelop the building to historical accuracy.”
Cooper said the administration wants to encourage future developers to come in with similar plans for downtown.
“We want to create a culture that is enticing to developers,” he said. “We don’t want to create a culture of red tape.”
The city is prepared to sign off on the developer’s restoration plan, Cooper said. He added, however, that the administration’s first priority would be to make sure the building is stable before any work progresses.
Jim Walker, a restaurateur and owner of several downtown buildings, said he wasn’t prepared to hassle anyone looking to invest millions of dollars downtown, especially not Peavy and his family. He called the actions of the Alliance “embarrassing.”
“They’re firing the money gun when no one else is willing to,” he said. “This is a very poor move on the part of the Downtown Mobile Alliance.”
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