Monday, June 18, 2012

What's the Status of Sweetwater District?

It's officially called the Sweetwater Arts & Entertainment District, and we usually receive about two questions a month concerning its status. For those of you who speak legalese, here's the official plan for the SAED:

The plan was scheduled for 99% completion by October 2011. Below are the results and status of the area garnered from several sources:

1. The Sweetwater area comes up short on parking to be used for an entertainment district. We're going to guess that any improvements in this area of Royal Avenue/Huntsville Road will have to be made by property owners themselves.

Former Site of Sweetwater Mill
2. At least two properties in the area are being touted by the City of Florence as "shovel ready." One is the old Foundry site. The city refused Richards' Metal Plating a license to move its business there and is seeking a greener operation on this very prominent corner. It wants a similar business to locate on the site of the old Cherry/Sweetwater Cotton Mill, diagonally across from the Richards property. How long this will take is anyone's guess, and in the interim both properties have been referred to as eyesores.

3. There's also been much recent speculation concerning the old Brandon School property a few blocks to the east of the above referenced corner. Located at the corner of Cole Avenue and Ironside Street, this 13,000 sq.ft. edifice is owned by New Vision Church. The name may sound new age, but it's part of the United Methodist Conference. As of December 31st of last year, several tenants in the building moved out, ostensibly to avoid increased rent. Officers of New Vision blamed the rent increase on their almost 9K a month utility bill, but there has been speculation that the church has never lived up to its master plan and may be in the process of selling the property. 

4. That brings us to speculation on who might purchase the Brandon property. It's currently not zoned for retail or industry. It does sit in a neighborhood of small houses that could be easily torn down. Who in this area is infamous for buying and tearing down older homes? Two institutions come to mind, but only one stands out as possibly being interested in property this easily accessible to Colbert County residents.

If any readers have updates or other new information on the Sweetwater Arts & Entertainment District, we welcome them. This area has been underutilized for too long.


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