The Birmingham Planning Board unanimously recommended an ordinance amendment to the city commission on Wednesday, September 11, to permit an area in the city's Rail District to be qualified to apply for economic development liquor licenses.
An economic development license is an economic incentive, with Birmingham originally designating underutilized properties along Woodward as areas that could use revitalization. To receive an economic development liquor license, where a Class C liquor license can be brought in from another municipality, the property must be zoned as qualified for it, and have at least $10 million in investments or an increase of 500 percent in value with a completed project.
To date, three economic development licenses have been issued by the city: to Hazel, Ravines and Downtown; Triple Nickel; and All Seasons of Birmingham.
City planner Brooks Cowan said that while none of the properties within the Rail District are currently within the economic development license boundaries, an applicant and owner of 2159 E. Lincoln, the former Birmingham Schools bus garage, is applying to have an economic development license for their restaurant concept Lincoln Yard at the site, and asked the city to consider including the the property for an ordinance amendment to promote activity and redevelopment in the Rail District.
“The southern portion of the district have maintained their original buildings,” Cowan said. “The restaurants in the southern portion are limited. Beyond Juice (2221 Cole Street) is the only one.
“The former bus repair building is a vacant, one-story cinderblock building on .8 acres, with an assessed value of $180,000,” he continued. “New development in the district has been in the northern potion, with development assessed at over $1 million. The justification for an economic development license is it would be a growth catalyst for the southern district.”
Cowan also suggested including not only the 2159 E. Lincoln property, but all properties on the east side of Eton between Cole and Lincoln for eligibility.
“My preference would be to be consistent with the city commission, which would be to amend rezoning to specific areas and not specific parcels,” board member Bryan Williams said.
Board member Bert Kosceck sought clarification. “It doesn't mean every property owner can come in and get an economic development license?” he asked.
“No, and not everyone can meet the criteria,” said planning director Jana Ecker.
The consensus of the board, voting 6-0. as chair Scott Clein recused himself, was to recommend the ordinance change for the area to the city commission.