I recently called and spoke to Bill Snowden, director of
planning for the City of Tuscaloosa, and asked him about the
rumoured "federal complex" that has been planned for a
huge area of downtown Tuscaloosa. The first I heard about the
project was in a short story in the April 24-May 8 edition of
Tuscaloosa's alternative weekly, The Strip. Snowden
was one of two officials quoted in the article (the other was the
mayor), so I called up his office to ask a few questions. I asked
Snowden what kind of project it was, what type of federal
buildings would be built, and what federal agencies or
departments would be housed there.
Snowden said it was premature to discuss any federal
buildings, but some type of federal presence is planned. He said
he didn't know what kind. The main purpose of the project is
to "revitalise" a run-down segment of town. In addition
to any federal buildings, a parking garage is also planned (there
is already lots of street parking in this area) and he envisioned
"a mix of offices and residences."
The boundaries of the project have not yet been finalised,
but the preliminary boundaries, as reported by The Strip
newspaper, are University Blvd., 23rd Ave., 20th Ave., and 9th
St. Snowden confirmed that this was accurate.
Snowden could not give a figure for how much the project
would cost. He did say that the funds for the project would come
from the federal government (I wonder where the feds get their
funds...). The City of Tuscaloosa will begin acquiring land in
the near future, and Snowden confirmed that eminent domain would
be used to take land from reluctant sellers "as a last
I asked Snowden why the City of Tuscaloosa wanted to
redevelop the downtown area, and had the city considered that a
federal complex would pay no taxes. He had no answer to those
questions. I asked whether the city council had voted on this
project, and whether any public hearings had been held to get
input from property owners and residents about whether they
desired to see their downtown "revitalised." Snowden
said "that's a good question." Unfortunately, he
did not know the answer. Neither could he shed any light on whose
idea this project was, or who initiated it. The sketchy news
report in The Strip indicated that Ala. Senator Richard
Shelby was pushing an appropriation for the project in Congress.
I guess having the new $50 million chemistry building on the University
of Alabama campus named after Shelby isn't enough. Want to
bet what the name of the new federal building will be?
As a matter of fact, all the details about this project seem
very unclear, but according to Snowden, it is definitely going to
happen. It seems very strange to me that this project could be a
"done deal," and yet Tuscaloosa's Director of
Planning knows so little about it.
The new Tuscaloosa City Hall is located within the proposed
area, which probably is the reason for this location being
selected for "revitalisation." Currently, the area has
many auto-related businesses, such as glass and muffler shops,
mechanics, etc. Apparently, the city dislikes the blue-collar
atmosphere, and wants to displace the currently property owners
in favour of white-collar office space for lawyers, doctors, etc.
(my interpretation--Snowden didn't say this).
The area outlined in red in the map below shows the proposed
location of the "federal complex." This is a HUGE chunk
of downtown Tuscaloosa, which is apparently being redeveloped
according to the politician's notions of what downtown should
look like with no regard to the desires or rights of the property
owners or the citizens of Tuscaloosa.
A friend has suggested that perhaps this federal complex may
contain a detention centre to house libertarians and other
dissidents to be arrested once PATRIOT Act II, PATRIOT Act III,
ad nauseum are passed--our own charming little version of Camp
X-Ray. We'll call it Guantanabama. However, rather than
"historic downtown Tuscaloosa" (if everything is torn down, will it still be "historic"?) I think it more likely that we will be sent here. Of course, in Alabama, you can never have
too many prisons (the Drug War must go on!).
If you would like to call Snowden's office yourself and
ask a few questions about this project, and I suggest you do,
here is his contact info:
Bill Snowden, Tuscaloosa Director of City Planning
E-mail: wsnowden at ci.tuscaloosa.al.us
If Snowden can't answer your questions, perhaps the Mayor can:
Mayor Al DuPont
E-mail: mayor at ci.tuscaloosa.al.us
Additionally, the Tuscaloosa City Council meets every Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. and every Thursday at 6:00 p.m. Business owners in the proposed redevelopment area would be wise to let the Council know how they feel about the decision to take their property away.
For more information on Eminent Domain abuse, see the following:
The Castle Coalition
The Institute for Justice
Free-Market.Net Spotlight on ED Abuse
The Libertarian Party of Alabama is the only political party in Alabama dedicated to fighting eminent domain abuse.