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  • By Lisa Brody

City expands economic development licenses

Birmingham city commissioners on Monday, November 20, unanimously approved expanding the use of the economic development liquor license to several more areas in the city, specifically in the city’s Triangle District and Cole Street corridor in the Rail District, to invigorate large-scale development.

The city’s economic development liquor license was created, along with the bistro liquor license, as an economic revitalization tool. While the bistro liquor license is for small establishments of 65 seats or less, the economic development license was created for areas in the city where the level of investment needed is at least $10 million and/or a 500 percent increase in the original property value, whichever the commission views to be more relevant, city attorney Tim Currier explained.

Birmingham Planner Jana Ecker explained to commissioners that expanding the areas where an economic development license could be utilized was originally discussed at the city commission/planning board joint workshop in June, and “the planning board reviewed this on a couple of occassions. It (the license) initially was on big Woodward because we were not seeing investments, and that was deemed necessary,” she explained.

The building at the corner of Maple and Woodward, Greenleaf Trust, was the first to receive an economic development license for what is now The Stand restaurant. Triple Nickel restaurant at the 555 building also received one. Both are on, or back up to, Woodward Avenue.

Later, commissions expanded the area to encompass All Seasons Independent Living on E. Maple Road. Whole Foods requested an economic development liquor license, but commissioners did not want to consider that area, and they received a 2017 bistro license.

Ecker said that the planning board reviewed several specific properties to assess whether it was an appropriate location for an economic development license, which could help spur development. “It’s for significant development,” she noted. They did not want to consider locations next to or adjacent to residential neighborhoods.

“We went a little further into the Triangle District, but we didn’t include the (former) Bakers Square site, because it abuts residential,” she said. “We looked at the Rail District, and focused on the Cole Street corridor, including the north side of Lincoln, that doesn’t abut residential, and we added the site at the southwest corner of Quarton and Woodward, which has been sitting vacant for years and years. There was not consensus among the planning board members on this property – some felt it was a little too isolated.”

“I do think the economic development license is a good tool and a good incentive, but I have concerns about it being used so close to residential,” said commissioner Rackeline Hoff. “It was designed for the downtown area, wasn’t it Jana?”

“No, it was meant as a development tool,” Ecker responded.

“The commission has the final say. Just because it can be done doesn’t mean we have to use it,” commissioner Stuart Sherman pointed out.

Commissioners approved the expansion of the economic development license by a vote of 6-0, with Mark Nickita not in attendance.

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