2 months ago

Gadsden officials hope the Venue will be ‘crown jewel’ on waterfront

While growing up in Gadsden, Kay Moore rarely would venture to the Coosa River, which flows under the Meighan Bridge just blocks from downtown.

“There was an old smelting plant, a nasty and smelly place,” she recalls. “There was a trailer park there, too, but nothing that would draw you down to the river.”

But after Ronnie Watkins Ford opened along the river in the late 1990s, things slowly began to change.

“Little by little, something would be torn down and something else would be built,” Moore says. “Nothing major, but things that eventually began to change the look, and certainly nothing to this scale.”

Moore is referring to the Venue at Coosa Landing, a multimillion-dollar project to renovate a 70,000-square-foot former Kmart, turning it into a conference center that would draw waterfront retail and restaurants.

“At this point, it would be what you would have to call the crown jewel,” Moore says of the $12.5 million project. “There’s been nothing done here on this scale.”

The Venue is the brainchild of Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton, a former real estate developer who went after the Kmart property after taking office 12 years ago.

“City Hall is right across the street, and the Kmart has been closed since I was in office,” he says. “I had my eye on it for a long time. We bought the property, and we’re going to use about 50,000 square feet of it for the conference center. This will be a big facility that can be partitioned off and host up to three events at a time.”

The Venue at Coosa Landing project, which is being paid for through a bond issue expected to be completed in the spring, comes on the heels of the $2.5 million Riverwalk at Coosa Landing, which was completed last January. The Riverwalk, which runs alongside the Kmart property, features a nearly mile-long series of boardwalks, piers, docks, pavilions and walking trails.

“We’ve gone a long time without taking advantage of the river running through our city,” Guyton says. “We want to develop the river on both sides.”

The Riverwalk and Venue projects, both on the same side of the river, should spur development on both sides, Guyton says. The 14 acres owned by the city will feature more than 20,000 square feet of retail and restaurant possibilities, including lots that could handle waterfront restaurants. The city owns 8 acres on the other side of the river (the downtown side) that could also be developed, Guyton says.

That’s music to the ears of Tena King, who has run King’s Olive Oil in the heart of downtown Gadsden for four years, and is the incoming president of the Etowah County Chamber of Commerce.

“We already have bass tournaments and some smaller conventions and stuff like that here, and we’ve found that people love to walk around our downtown,” she says. “Our downtown is already pretty vibrant, but I think this is really going to help us with opening up more opportunities on the river. Once we get the convention center, people will see the beautiful river and landscape. I don’t think people realize how beautiful it is, especially out-of-towners.”

Guyton says about 300,000 people live within a 25-minute drive of Gadsden, and the redone riverfront should draw a lot of them to town.

Moore, who is director of Downtown Gadsden, a nonprofit group dedicated to development, is excited about the possibilities.

“Anytime you can bring in something of this magnitude – thousands and thousands of people – it can only be of benefit to downtown,” she says.

Already, downtown Gadsden hosts popular First Friday events, which feature hundreds of classic cars, food and drink from area restaurants and live music. In addition, the city OK’d a more-than-eight-block entertainment district, which allows people to walk and drink alcohol from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

It’s all an effort to draw people to Gadsden and take advantage of the Coosa River just blocks away.

“We’ve taken the river for granted for so long, as you tend to do when you live somewhere,” Moore says. “When Chattanooga redid its riverfront, we said, ‘Hey, we’ve got the river here. Why don’t we do that?’ It’s going to be a boon for the whole economy. It’s going to help everyone.”

The Venue will be central to those efforts, King says.

“Knowing that we will have a facility where we can actively pursue bringing out-of-towners so they can fall in love with our town, that’s a big deal,” she says.

Like Moore, Shane Ellison, an administrative aide to Mayor Guyton, grew up in Gadsden. He, too, says he’s never seen anything like what’s planned for the Venue.

“It’s huge,” he says. “I guess it’s the biggest development ever on this part of the river.”

This story originally appeared in Alabama Power’s Shorelines.


$12.5 million – The estimated cost of the Venue at Coosa Landing project

50,000 square feet – The size of the convention center

20,000 square feet – Space available for retail and restaurants

$2.5 million – Cost of the recently completed Riverwalk

1 mile – Amount of walking trails, piers and boardwalks that are part of the riverfront

(By Alec Harvey, courtesy Alabama NewsCenter)


array(1) {

9 hours ago

Alabama wins private property rights case against Obama-era regulations

In a victory for private property rights this week, the federal government agreed to reconsider rules adopted during the Obama-era that unreasonably restrict the freedom of Americans to use their land.

“We are encouraged that the Trump administration has agreed to revisit these rules, which threaten property owners’ rights to use any land that the federal government could dream that an endangered species might ever inhabit,” Alabama Attorney General Marshall said in a statement.

Why this matters: Under these rules, unelected federal bureaucrats could designate a piece of private property as “critical habitat” for an endangered species even if the land doesn’t contain that particular species and, moreover, doesn’t even contain some of the features needed to support that species. Use of the land would then be severely limited. 


The details:

— The state filed a lawsuit, Alabama v. National Marine Fisheries Service, in November of 2016 challenging the rules, calling them “an unlawful federal overreach.”

— Nearly 20 other states joined the lawsuit, along with four large trade associations.

— The settlement forces federal agencies to submit revised rules for public review within 60 days and retains our freedom to file another lawsuit if their new rules are as excessive as the old ones.

@jpepperbryars is the editor of Yellowhammer News and the author of American Warfighter

9 hours ago

Jeff Sessions is right to sue California for ignoring federal immigration laws

America may be a country of immigrants, but it’s also a country of laws. No one is exempt from those laws regardless of what some local officials in sanctuary cities may think.

As you may have seen on the news recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced a lawsuit against the State of California for failure to completely cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officers.  I stand with AG Sessions’ decision.

From the mayors and local politicians disregarding federal immigration law to the illegal immigrants they are prioritizing over American citizens, it’s about time we hold these lawless individuals accountable.


The “leaders” in these cities are violating their oath of office and the Constitution.  They should be immediately removed from their positions and the illegal immigrants they are protecting should be deported. Period.

I agree with President Trump that we need to strengthen our borders.  We should build the wall and we should continue to support law enforcement’s crackdown on violent foreign gangs like MS-13.

These efforts mean nothing though if illegal immigrants and criminals can continue to seek refuge in some of our country’s largest cities.

It boils down to fairness, safety and what it means to be a sovereign nation.

A country without borders is hardly a country at all. I’m fed up with seeing the tax dollars from hard-working families across East Alabama go to cities who snub their nose at the very ideals that make America great.  Congress should withhold funding from sanctuary cities that refuse to uphold federal law.

President Trump has proven his tough stance on illegal immigration is much more than just campaign rhetoric. He has already done so much to curtail our illegal immigration crisis but he can’t do it alone.

Elected officials – from the state and local level to Members of Congress – must do their part.

And if they refuse, then they aren’t fit for public service.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is a Republican from Saks.

(Image:U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Flickr)

11 hours ago

WATCH: Cam Newton’s leadership message resonates with Boy Scouts

When Cam Newton speaks, people listen.

The Carolina Panthers quarterback had the full attention of the audience at the 11th annual American Values Luncheon.

Boy Scouts were among attendees that filled the meeting room at the North Exhibition Hall of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.


Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn joined Newton during a question and answer session. Famous for leading the Auburn Tigers to the 2010 National Championship under Malzahn’s leadership, Newton’s talk followed in the tradition of several other football greats, including Nick Saban, Shaquille O’Neal and Bo Jackson.

Dr. James Andrews, Dr. Jesse Lewis Sr. and Jimmy Rane were honored at the luncheon for their contributions to the community.

Newton shared his life experiences and lessons learned.

(Courtesy Alabama News Center)

11 hours ago

Celtic Pride! Joel Blankenship shares his Irish roots with The Ford Faction

Joel Blankenship makes his weekly return to The Ford Faction to talk the St. Patrick’s Day parade held in Birmingham and what the holiday means to him.  Joel mentions the law that can be passed to put Police K9’s in schools to help sniff out guns or drugs.  He provides feedback on what this could mean for schools and how it will benefit the need for police K9’s.

Subscribe to the Yellowhammer Radio Presents The Ford Faction podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

12 hours ago

VIDEO: Alabama Rep. Roby thanks Air Force secretary for decision to bring F-35s to Montgomery

U.S. Representative Martha Roby participated in a defense appropriations subcommittee hearing this week where she expressed her appreciation to Secretary Heather Wilson for the Air Force’s decision to base F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at Dannelly Field in Montgomery.

Roby also discussed other military-related programs in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, including helicopter training at Fort Rucker near Enterprise and the professional education programs at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery.

(Image: Representative Martha Roby/YouTube)