By Melanie Patterson
North Jefferson News
Construction on Gardendale’s Publix grocery store has again been delayed, and the city has taken a step to try to push the project along.
During a special called meeting last week, the city council hired Jack Fields of Gardendale to represent the city in talks with Century Retail, the company planning to build Publix and T.J. Maxx at the Northgate Shopping Center.
Fields will be paid $75 an hour, according to council president Stan Hogeland.
Fields is a former director of the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, and played a key role in bringing Walmart to Gardendale, according to Hogeland.
“Walmart had come to Gardendale to inform them they had decided to go to Fultondale,” Hogeland said. “Jack was involved, along with the city, to keep that business here. You can’t put into words how important that was to the town.”
Fields said he is working closely with the owner of the shopping center, as well as all professionals and companies involved.
He said it can be difficult when the owner is in Florida, working on a project hundreds of miles away.
“It was felt that having somebody that had a background in development and also understood the community would be beneficial in helping move through certain challenges and obstacles that are involved with the development,” said Fields.
Century Retail first announced plans to build Publix in Gardendale in 2008. There have been several holdups — one regarding financing, but the city in 2011 borrowed $2.85 million to loan to the developer.
Then there was a lawsuit involving Dollar Tree, which is to be moved to another location in the shopping center to make room for Publix. However, that dispute has been verbally resolved.
Fields and city officials met with Century Retail representatives Tuesday morning, and Fields said he is confident that Publix is still opening in Gardendale.
“The owners have assured us they are committed to the project and are working feverishly,” Fields said.
He added that Century Retail officials have also assured the city that the lawsuit with Dollar Tree “is no longer an impairment.”
Bob Madden, the CEO of Century Retail, told the city council in early December that construction on Publix would begin on Feb. 22, but the project has been stalled again.
Madden did not return a phone call to the NJN on Tuesday.
In other business, the council:
• approved a new zoning ordinance and zoning map, following a public hearing during which no one spoke for or against the ordinance. The ordinance updates language; removes redundancies; reorganizes the document; updates parking, access, sign and landscaping regulations among numerous other changes
• authorized Mayor Othell Phillips to enter into an agreement with Goodwyn Mills and Cawood for the ATRIP grant regarding paving projects on Fieldstown Road
• hired Joshua Phillips as a firefighter
• promoted Justin Belcher to truck driver in the Public Works Department
• named Pamela Sharbono as acting city clerk, effective March 15
• designed authorized depositories for city funds and officers and employees authorized to deposit and withdraw city funds