Gardendale’s future Public Safety Center as it looks today hardly resembles the building’s former manifestation as a grocery store.
At the old Food World facility off of U.S. Hwy. 31, crews are hard at work renovating the site that will include the city’s police department, jail, magistrate and clerk offices, and courtroom.
The Public Safety Center will take up about 19,500 square feet of the 56,000-square-foot building. Gardendale Mayor Othell Phillips said the city is still deciding what to put into the rest of the space.
Jeremy Busby, superintendent for Murray Building Company, the general contractor, said the facility is scheduled to be open for business by Oct. 10.
The center, opening following controversy from neighbors who did not want a jail located near their homes, is one of many ongoing projects in Gardendale.
One of the next big changes in the city will be the relocation of city hall offices.
The city, in April 2011, voted to sell the current city hall building to T Investments LLC for $1.85 million; plans are for a CVS Pharmacy to be built there.
At the same meeting, the council also voted to purchase the former Caufield Square property, 22 acres that the city plans to develop into a new city center that would include a new city hall building, a park, restaurants, a movie theater, a hotel and retail space.
However, even though millions of dollars of site prep work was done at the site before Gardendale purchased it, no site work has been done since.
Part of the city’s deal in selling city hall was that city workers would vacate the building by October. Phillips said the council is looking at three locations in order to choose a place to rent for city offices until the new city hall is built.
He said he does not know how long the city will rent space.
“We don’t want to rush the building,” he said. “We plan to be there for years and years, so we want to do it right.”
Phillips said the new city center will “set the bar ... it will be the showplace of Gardendale.”
He added that citizens should be seeing progress at the site soon because three key components have been completed — engineering for the topography and mass grading plan, the utilities plan and the master development plan.
The next step is for the plans to be submitted to the Gardendale Planning and Zoning Board for its July meeting; the board must approve or turn down the plans.
Also at the site, a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant is slated to start construction in July. Phillips said it could open as soon as October.
Now that the engineering plans are in, Phillips said, the city can start marketing parcels to sell.
Perhaps even bigger talk in town, however, is not about a municipal building but about a grocery store slated to open.
There has been talk for years about a Publix opening in Gardendale, and Phillips said the store is not just rumors.
He announced last year that the groundbreaking would be in December 2011, but the latest snag for the project came in the form of a lawsuit.
The city is not involved in the legal battle.
Rather, the fight is between a tenant, Dollar Tree, and the shopping center’s owners and future Publix developers, Century Realty Funds and Odyssey (III) DP X.
Dollar Tree reportedly filed a complaint in March against the two companies because they were supposed to provide a new location for the Dollar Tree by Sept. 1 or pay a fee of $500 a day, according to the complaint.
After much legal wrangling, the case is set to go to arbitration on June 14, Phillips said.
“I’m optimistic it will move forward after the fourteenth,” he said.
Gardendale last year signed an agreement to borrow $2.8 million from Regions in order to loan to the Publix developer. However, Phillips said the city has not yet given the money to the developer.
In March, the developer applied for a building permit from the city of Gardendale, before the legal battle started.