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Welcoming hotels to city’s downtown mix

Birmingham, like many cities in the midst of a growth spurt, has both proponents of its development, who are excited to see new opportunities to live, shop and work in their city, and opponents, who resent the growth for the congestion it brings, parking difficulties and the changes to known entities.

But the opposite of development is stagnation.

Other opponents see any competition as a threat, and that is not healthy in a thriving marketplace – nor is it productive for the business itself. Birmingham has experienced just this confluence of situations recently, as a new luxury boutique hotel, The Daxton, is poised to break ground at 298 S. Old Woodward at the corner of Brown.

The owners, architects and operators of The Daxton, who followed all city procedures, received final site plan approvals from the Birmingham Planning Board in August 2017, despite efforts by some residents and The Townsend Hotel to complain that there would be too much congestion in Birmingham, and the new hotel would tax the city's parking. Planning board members disagreed, noting the new hotel met all of the city's ordinance requirements – even exceeding them by adding two floors of underground parking, providing 56 parking spots rather than the prescribed 22 spots – as well as activating a slower part of downtown.

Recently, city commissioners made the decision to add hotels, along with theaters, to the city's liquor license zoning ordinance. They made it clear, repeatedly, that their decision was for the betterment of the city as a whole, and not for one property. We agree with their reflection to send the ordinance back for possible amending to the planning board to reconsider size of hotels as well as zoning locations, because a decision to only consider hotels with 100 rooms or more rules out the possibility of more intimate high-end luxury boutique hotels with perhaps 65 to 80 rooms, which could be an ideal fit for Birmingham, drawing in not only millennials, but baby boomers as well. It also could allow the city's Holiday Inn on Woodward, with just 64 rooms, the economic incentive to enhance and become a greater asset for the city. Locations on Woodward, and in the Triangle District, should also be given consideration.

Birmingham has a long history of not doing spot zoning, which has proven to be an excellent policy, and why developers of all sizes, stripes and economic weight have not prevailed over the years when their proposals have not fit development or master plan edicts of the city. But neither should businesses who want to safeguard their assets at the expense of improvement by thwarting the competition be permitted free rein with inaccurate smear campaigns. Just as Birmingham is home to numerous jewelers, hair salons, restaurants and other retailers, so should there be a vibrant marketplace for quality hotels.

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