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BJCC Expansion plans


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This is a very positive development, I agree. Very good that it's lead by a private developer, although I wish the mayor hadn't been quoted on the rarity of not granting incentives, lol.

Apparently the entertainment district tenatively named "District at the BJCC" will be about a $55M development...
Surely this is a working title only. (Houston's comparable development is "Bayou Place.") Off the top of my head, Magic Alley.

(If all 3 of these new hotels were built, that would put about 1,500 hotel units within an easy walking distance of the BJCC and the arena once you include the 700+ unit Sheraton Birmingham.)
I always wondered why the Sheraton was such a stepchild in the discussion of a "convention hotel." And here's hoping there's enough business to support that number of hotel rooms year round, as well as existing downtown hotel space; Houston's downtown gained a lot of hotel space in short order after being under-roomed for many years, and a couple of the smaller properties have folded.

Now, this was great:

"What makes Beale Street a draw are things like the B.B. King blues club and the Pat O'Brien's bar that is one of only two in the U.S."

Two major religious conventions that attracted nearly 6,000 people last year - the Freewill and Presbyterian groups - have both said they wouldn't come back to Birmingham because their members had to stay in hotels as far away as Hoover, Smither said. "It's not just the lack of hotel rooms," Fields said. "Some of them said there was simply nothing to do at night outside the conventions.

I'll be curious to see if a Pat O'Brien's and apartments over retail draw back the Freewills and the Presbyterians. ;)
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The BJCC Board of Directors has now approved the 40,000-seat arena proposal... it will break down as follows:

-- $380 million for the 40,000-seat arena (with 175,000 square feet of exhibit space)

-- $17 million to buy land for the expansion.

-- $10.5 million to expand parking.

-- $10 million for infrastructure improvements.

-- $6 million to upgrade the existing BJCC facade.

-- $5 million to build a skywalk to the existing basketball arena.

-- $2 million to refurbish the existing arena.

-- $75 million to pay off existing debt.

:yahoo:

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In order for the entertainment district to be successful you need locals, can't just rely on conventioneers, I don't think locals will give up quaint historic areas for some fake, theme park like, main street district, and I know the independent chefs in Birmingham would agree. In my opinion the BJCC should have been developed around the Lakeview district back in the 70's, just imagine what that area would be like today if it had. Look at Atlanta there district around Georgia dome took years to finally attract development, not to mention all the money they poured into it, ie the Olympics, centennial park, a huge aquarium, we don't have those capabilities. The entertainment zone needs to be around one of our many historic districts to be able to thrive for years to come.

Edited by tedo420
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I must agree, but what is done is done. The BJCC is on the northern edge of downtown, so unless we plan on building the new 40,000-seat arena elsewhere like Memphis did with the FedEx Forum from The Pyramid. But this would farther hurt downtown and the BJCC. Just as Blazer said, Five Points South and Lakeview would be just fine because they have either niche demographic.

Anyways, Downtown needs to the activity past 5PM and on weekends because it is practically dead there at the moment. There is nothing worse than seeing a large city with dead downtown.

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The Model: Memphis revived its city center

If all things goes according to plan with the BJCC is expanded and Performa designs and manages this entertainment district, this will be RIDICIOUS (in a good way of course). :D

Performa projects this district could attract as many as 6 million visitors to Birmingham per year. :shok: This is due to there already being 2.5 million attracted to the BJCC now, so an additional 4 million would propel it astronomical levels. Birmingham would be the entertainment spot to be with that type of revenue.

Hopefully, if we can get some mass transit for the region as well this would give Birmingham some to hold pride in. :D

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I think it's very apparent that in the past, some bad decisions have been made that have hurt our growth and potential. But having said that, there's still so much potential. This entertainment district is going to be wildly successful if you ask me. If they do indeed get some unique-to-Birmingham retail, bars, and restaurants... I guarantee you you'll get more things going on at the BJCC at night.

This new district will primarily be popular among tourists... but I think locals will embrace it as well. Personally, I think it could be great to have several options. People might get tired of going to Five Points or Lakeview night after night. A new entertainment district gives more versatility and variety. Not to mention, I think alot of people might enjoy bar-hopping and taking the DART from Five Points on up to the BJCC entertainment district or vice versa. And also, when people go to the circus or concerts or whatever, they'd be able to go shop and/or eat near there before or after. Right now, that opportunity doesn't really exist for them.

I'm almost more excited about this entertainment district than the arena itself (though I am excited about that too). The Performa group doing it is very optimistic and they really see the potential there. And let's remember. This is no fly-by-night group... they've been there, done that. They know the business. I really think the north side of downtown is set to see an explosion in activity. Once the news leaks out, stalled developments will probably be revived... unknown developers will jump to the scene trying to get a jump on the activity. You'll see lots of residential, retail, and hotels springing up all around that area. I think this may send Birmingham over a tipping point. Realistically speaking, I think these developments will thrust Birmingham into a total renaissance, and personally, I can't find any reason to be pessimistic about it. Quite excited, actually.

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I agree with you totally Blazer85. The area could turn out to be a hotspot for the local young crowd and that always makes a place livelier. With more developments (potentially) popping up along with this then it could turn out to be a nice regional attraction. Not only would people attending events at the BJCC be there, but it could be a place where people just want to be when there's something going on. There is too much to be excited about on this project, especially with the entertainment component.

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What about a horse-shoe design (or U-shape) where each side has 15,000 seats and 15,000 seats in the endzone? That would make a total of 45,000-seats for football events. And it could be blocked off for about a 25,000-seat basketball venue. The open endzone could (for the foreseeable future) be used for restaurants, shops, skyboxes, etc. At a later date, should the need arise, the open endzone could be converted to 15,000 seats bringing total capacity up to 60,000.

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As for the entertainment district, has anyone been to "4th Street Live" in Louisville? I see this as a very similar type or project. Conventioneers obviously need some convenient places to go that have a little local flavoer, but I think the regional people have to support it for it to work. How many convention people does Bham bring in anyway? Even with growth, I don't see that as being enough. The place can't be a no man's land when there isn't a major convention in town. :alc:

So, what do we see in this District?

Dreamland BBQ?

A concert venue/bar playing up the American Idol connections?

An SEC Sports Bar?

A grand meat and three?

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As for the entertainment district, has anyone been to "4th Street Live" in Louisville? I see this as a very similar type or project. Conventioneers obviously need some convenient places to go that have a little local flavoer, but I think the regional people have to support it for it to work. How many convention people does Bham bring in anyway? Even with growth, I don't see that as being enough. The place can't be a no man's land when there isn't a major convention in town. :alc:

So, what do we see in this District?

Dreamland BBQ?

A concert venue/bar playing up the American Idol connections?

An SEC Sports Bar?

A grand meat and three?

If it is built, locals would come. There are plenty of young folks that would love to have somewhere in the region to frequent. It is doubtful that it would be a no-man's land.

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How many convention people does Bham bring in anyway? Even with growth, I don't see that as being enough.
Yeah, why expand the convention center at all, lol.

So, what do we see in this District?

Dreamland BBQ?

A concert venue/bar playing up the American Idol connections?

An SEC Sports Bar?

A grand meat and three?

Dreamland BBQ - probably a bad choice - Southside location would likely close. How about something that isn't already in the city center.

A concert venue/bar playing up the American Idol connections - I'd recommend thinking post-Idol/Birmingham associations but small club venues and karaoke aren't going away soon.

An SEC Sports Bar - surely that would violate NCAA regulations. :) But sure, a "Hard Rock" of sports bars.

A grand meat and three - I'd think some expanding national players are likely, say Smith & Wollensky's.

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To build a 40,000 seat arena that can not be expanded in the future is myopic. How does this make sense? Do we know anything about Bettye?

From the Bettye Fine Collins website, I found the following:

On February 23, 2004, at the Winter Meeting of the Alabama Republican Executive Committee in Montgomery, Alabama, Bettye Fine Collins was re-elected to her third consecutive term as Alabama

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This is some positive news. However, it seems Bettye Fine Collins just doesn't get it! A private developer is willing to offer $25 million to pay for the future expansion.

Yeah, I don't know what this lady's problem is, but I'm beginning to think because of her this thing might not make it through. Birmingham needs to flush all of the STUBBORN leadership out of the city. Everybody thinks their way is right and no one wants to budge one bit. I'm sick of it myself.

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New Developments:

Consultant offers to fund dome

Carol Forge Hatcher, a Birmingham consultant, has said that she represents a group of investors willing to put up $1.5 billion to fund a 70,000-seat multipurpose facility and entertainment district as part of the BJCC expansion. However, BJCC board had said that Hatcher had talked to them last year about $500M hotel, but didn't announce this new development until yesterday.

I have a couple of questions surrounding this whole situation: Why has the BJCC Board been dragging their feet after all these years to entice a private developer to sponsor this expansion? Also why did it take them so long to realize they need a Plan B? How authentic are these unnamed private investors towards bringing this expansion to reality? Why is John Rogers, knowing his untrustworthy ways of doing things?

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The whole thing stinks and is just grown tiresome. I wish they would just move forward with some pieces of this and leave the details about the dome out so they can be ironed out. There's no reason why the expansion of convention facilities, entertainment district, etc. couldn't have already been under construction several years ago. Our political leaders here are ridiculously inept. Man do we need some new leadership all across the board.

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Guys, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the dome and entertainment area happen. I want to see this for my beloved Birmingham. I must say though, this whole story sounds "sketchy" at best. The consultant filed bankruptcy just three years ago? Won't give out any info on who the investors are? The investors will pay for it 100%? My good ole Alabama upbringing taught me that if it quacks like a duck, it IS a duck.

This is really all kind of odd. I'll hope for the best! :)

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kyle whitmire lays some smack:

http://www.bhamweekly.com/?article_id=96#article

like you, GS, i have had a bad feeling about anything happening with any bham downtown project since the carol hatcher 'proposal' was announced a couple of days ago. everything seemed to have some kind of lurchy, fumbling momentum until this was announced, and it sounded so loony and calculated to shift the spotlight away from the more realistic proposals that it shocked me into realizing that nothing is going to happen...again. or, like kyle says, if it does, it will happen in spite of efforts to stall it - certainly not because of efforts to move it forward.

Edited by convulso
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After reading that column, I have come to 3 conclusions:

1) An automatic "No" to every incumbent from now on

2) Everybody holding a high political position in Birmingham needs to schedule an appoint with UAB pyschiatrist Dr. Josh Klappo. I say this because all of them are insane.

3) Something is going to get built, but what?

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Apparently next Tuesday may be a very big day in regards to this whole BJCC thing. Carol Forge Hatcher will meet with officials next Tuesday, but if she fails to answer their questions (ie, provide financial statements on the investors that would be involved), the city council will not speak with her again. While I can understand investors maybe not wanting to be really thrown out in the public eye, I can also understand local officials wanting to see the proof. It may not be the final say in this because there are so many strong voices on both sides of the issue, but it will certainly be a big day in the grand scheme of things.

Tonight, Performa (the entertainment group already in talks with the BJCC) said they would do the district with or without the big arena expansion and all ,though that is certainly something they would prefer to compliment the district.

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It's great that Performa is want to go ahead with the Entertainment District in the CBD. I think they are so gung ho with this project even though the expansion is still being stall b/c Memphis redeveloped Beale Street without any stimuli other than the area's proximity to Downtown Memphis.

I agree Birmingham badly needs some type of attraction that will pull in most young urban professionals to its core afterhours. This in turn will encourage more to moved into the core area.

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Performa Entertainment's $55M entertainment district and hotel for adjacent to the BJCC has been approved by all parties... construction could begin this summer. Some of the tenants that have already expressed interest: The Pig (a BBQ restaurant), the Mesquite Steakhouse, the Wet Willie (a daiquiri bar), etc. They are also in discussions with Dick Clark's American Music Cafe about bringing a location to the entertainment district.

This could be a very big thing for Birmingham... I mean $55M isn't all that HUGE, but it's virtually all in entertainment... something many tourists would say is vastly lacking in downtown Birmingham. It certainly will provide an alternative to Lakeview and 5 Points (though I don't think this will be any threat to them... those areas will always have their niche market, particularly with locals).

The great thing is that this entertainment venue will get the ball rolling. All the locals have been so busy playing these political games that NOTHING has happened. Getting these outsiders that seem genuinely excited about doing a project here will probably spur on further growth... more hotels, more restaurants, more residential units, etc etc. That will then force our leaders to look at serious options for expanding the BJCC. This is a very good day for downtown Birmingham.

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Movers behind Beale Street see successful model at BJCC

According to The News, Performa wants to make the district family-friendly. They want to have night-venues such as the usual clubs, bars, and restaurants, but some of these places particularly the restaurants. Performa wants some of these restaurants to be opened during the afternoon and early evening hours so that young couples with small children can enjoy these places also.

I am hoping and praying this is successful and doesn't wind up like the Performa project in Shreveport. Hopefully, our district will be a hybrid model of both Beale Street and what Cordish Company's Fourth Street Live! in Louisville. Both projects have done wonders for both Memphis and Louisville, 2 cities in the same league as Birmingham in appearance, demographic makeup, and metropolitan area size. Birmingham needs something like that to entice outsiders to view this great place in a different way as a place to live, work, and play. It will in turn encourage more these outsiders to consider moving to the city, and make this region grow in turn.

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