By Monique Jones
The Birmingham Times
A local political group on Wednesday called the Birmingham City Council’s approval of infrastructure funding for Five Points West’s Crossplex Village “blatant political pandering” and vow to continue to fight the project.
The Jefferson County Millennial Democrats (JCMD) said in a press release, “We may have lost the battle today, but the war is not over.”
On Tuesday, the City Council approved $3.7 million in infrastructure funding for development in the Five Points West community.
The JCMD has been vocal in their opposition to a “two-star development” in the Five Points West community.
“We have been and will continue to be steadfast in our belief that a development anchored around a two-star hotel and not including a single local business owner in Phase 1 is not the type of transformative project that our community needs,” the JCMD said. “The West Side community has been ignored for 40 years, and we find it offensive that the best our elected leaders can provide for us is a two-star development. It is blatant political pandering less than a year from the election.”
However, during Tuesday’s city council meeting, Susan Palmer, president of the Central Park Neighborhood Association, said that her community supports the development.
“We are not the neighborhood that is protesting this project,” she said, adding that those opposed to the project aren’t residents of the Five Points West area. “[T]hey do not have the right to speak on behalf of our neighborhood.”
Emma Tolbert wrote in an op-ed for the Birmingham Times that she lives in the area and believes that the businesses could be better than what has been proposed.
“What we need and what we should be demanding is a hotel with a full service restaurant and bar, a place with meeting rooms and catering available so that we who live in the neighborhood can benefit,” she said.
The JCMD were critical of how the matter was handled by the City Council, writing that the council “awarded $3.7 million of our taxpayer dollars to a white-owned contracting firm for development in a 99 percent black neighborhood, and they did so using a casual slip to the consent agenda, preventing a roll call vote on this item and shutting down debate.”
The group said it will continue to fight for the inclusion of locally owned black businesses in the development “as well as policy that demands first source hiring for companies located there.”
The group said they presented developer Bob Nesbitt of Engel Realty with suggestions for the Crossplex Village in a meeting last week including rebranding the hotel along the lines of the Tutwiler and Redmont hotels, adding a privately-owned restaurant/bar/caterer within the hotel, and creating a meeting and banquet space to hold more than 75 guests.
Nesbitt told The Birmingham Times in an interview last week that he didn’t understand the concerns surrounding the hotel.
“[T]he research we did with various hotel experts indicated that a bar was not a good plan for this particular hotel,” he said, adding that the hotel’s primary customer base would be young athletes and their families at the Crossplex for sporting events. He added that Choice Hotels, the company which owns Comfort Inn and Suites, doesn’t allow bars in their establishments.
To meet the concerns, however, Nesbitt said he has reserved a space next to the hotel for a restaurant and bar tenant.