Public investment in Sixth Avenue from the southern end of the river bridge to Delano Park could spur owners of unattractive properties to either improve their properties or sell them, according to a Decatur business leader, and a study to be funded in large part by an $80,000 state grant could guide those investments.

“If we do our part as a community in the public areas and the rights of way and so on, it will create an atmosphere to get folks to do other things,” said John Seymour of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce. “Some of those businesses might upgrade their landscaping or paint their buildings or do something that will enhance it.”

State Sen. Arthur Orr assisted the city in securing $80,000 from the Alabama Department of Transportation for a $100,000 study of the corridor to be performed by Birmingham-based Volkert Inc. The Decatur City Council will have to vote on how much it is willing to spend, but Director of Development Wally Terry said Thursday he expects the city to pitch in $5,000. The rest, Terry said, will likely come from organizations such as the chamber’s Decatur Corridor Development Committee, Decatur Morgan County Tourism and the Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority.

“The overall, current appearance of these first city blocks as one enters from the north does not create a positive image of Decatur,” Orr said. “Hopefully, beginning this process with an expert plan will change future impressions as the plan is executed.”

Volkert’s proposal for the project lays out several goals:

• Address the appearance of the corridor to create a positive impression,

• Design street improvements that work with surrounding land uses,

• Improve pedestrian access, and

• Improve downtown mobility for all users.

In addition to developing plans to assist in transportation along the corridor, Volkert’s proposal said it will focus on “gateway features including signage and monuments, to welcome motorists to the city,” and will develop streetscape concepts.

Seymour said he expects signage proposals would include directional signs pointing to Bank Street.

The proposal also says Volkert will develop designs that facilitate more efficient access to and between private properties, such as driveway consolidation, and “traffic calming strategies” such as crosswalks, planted medians and bus pullouts.

"This is not just about beautification, although we hope that will be part of it," Terry said. "We hope this planning study helps us update Sixth Avenue with multiple projects over time, to freshen it up." 

Improving entranceways to the city was a focus of the One Decatur comprehensive plan developed last year and the Envision Decatur plan developed in 2009.

“That corridor is like the foyer to your home; it’s the gateway to our city,” Mayor Tab Bowling said. “Long before One Decatur, we knew as a community that there was a need to make improvements to Sixth Avenue.”

Seymour said he gets regular reminders from visitors of the need for improvement along the corridor.

“We have talked to a number of developers that we’ve had in here for commercial and residential development, and they all indicated to me that one of their concerns about our being attractive is the entrance to the city, coming across the bridge. We get a lot of people coming into the city from the airport or coming off (Interstate) 65, and when they come through they don’t get a good first impression,” Seymour said.

In its proposal, Volkert said it will hold two public meetings to solicit input from residents on Sixth Avenue improvements.

eric@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2435. Twitter @DD_Fleischauer.

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(8) comments

JP Bama

Great. More six figure useless studies by worthless 'consultants'.

Pamela Blakely

It’s almost as if the city will only listen to a consultant—in their opinion the residents don’t have sense enough to have an opinion.

Lori Ray

I drove 6th Ave a couple of times today. I am pretty sure the other people that drive that road will give an honest opinion for free. 6th Ave is a hot mess. Between title loans, falling down buildings, and vape shops there isn't much else there. I don't think an expensive survey is needed to confirm that. Is there anyway to hold the property owners responsible for the appearance of their properties? I would rather see the buildings torn down and a well maintained lot than what is there now. Maybe even the parking lots could be dug up and grass planted - but then the grass would probably not be mowed. I am not speaking of all the land/building owners. Several places look nice and are well maintained. Unfortunately the messier properties stick out like a sore thumb. I don't want the property owners to have super tight restrictions like only white lights can be displayed during Christmas but small things like limiting the number and length of temporary signs would be nice. Or maybe a restriction on what color the majority of the building can be painted.

Richard Crow

Another wasted taxpayers' $100,000

Chuck Johns

It doesn't really matter what input you get from residents, you're going to do what you want to waste money on anyway.

J. T.

What is it with a of these studies or consultants being purchased by Decatur officials? It seems like every other week there is another monetary outlay for something that the city staff (or even city citizens) could handle for much less. What are we paying city employees for if not to be able to perform a simple task like the purpose of this study?

JERRY MITCHELL

[thumbup]

Maxwell Hamilton

The answer to your two questions: Senator Orr evidently has personal control over ALDOT’s checkbook (think of all the superfluous ALDOT money spent on anything but road construction); second answer is obvious, nobody at city hall has the education and qualifications to hold their jobs. Mind you now, when trying to replace the current development director the council decided to not do anything, apparently because they couldn’t find an eminently qualified “schmoozer”.

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