FLORENCE — The merchants association Wednesday gave new Mayor Mickey Haddock and members of the City Council a list of priorities it wants to see accomplished in the next four years.
The list includes restructuring downtown parking fines so repeat offenders pay considerably more, and the streetscaping of Tennessee Street.
Members of Downtown Florence Unlimited, meeting at City Hall, discussed their goals for downtown with five of the six council members and Haddock.
Also on the list are completing the new science building at the University of North Alabama, redeploying Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital if it is replaced by a new facility, completing a bridge across Cypress Creek that links West College Street and Alabama 20, establishing a bicentennial committee, and expanding the discussion of creating a downtown entertainment district.
“Some of this is doable in the first term,” Haddock said.
DFU member Allen Tomlinson told elected officials the problem with downtown parking is that too many business owners and their employees are taking parking spaces on the street instead of using the parking deck.
“We want to discuss fine increases. A couple of dollars is not a big deal,” he said.
Tomlinson proposed a graduated fee schedule that starts at $5 and goes from $25 to $50 for second and third violations in a 30-day period. He said DFU wants to discuss a voucher program that would encourage shoppers to park in the deck at a reduced fee.
DFU President Van Morgan said creating a downtown entertainment district, in which open containers of alcohol would be allowed on the streets, is not a priority but is a subject the organization wants to see remain an active topic of conversation.
Bradley Dean, a DFU member who works for designer Billy Reid, said it’s important to young professionals like himself, and to college students, to have a more vibrant and lively downtown that offers more entertainment.
“I’m excited, as a young professional, by what’s happening downtown, but many of us leave on weekends to go to other cities,” he said.
Haddock said he is interested in pursuing the conversation about an entertainment district, but noted he wants to retain the family friendly atmosphere in downtown Florence.
Teryl Shields, director of the Florence Main Street program, said streetscaping Tennessee Street should become a priority for the city. The last few blocks of Court Street were landscaped several years ago, she said.
“Studies show that 80 percent of the people who visit downtown come across O’Neal Bridge or along Tennessee Street,” she said. “Tennessee Street is becoming a new retail corridor.”
Shields said landscaped streets slow traffic, allowing motorists to see more of the businesses along the street.
Council President Dick Jordan, whose district includes the downtown area, said the first thing the council must do is create a capital spending plan. Then it can make informed decisions about prioritizing projects.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.