Building owners, business owners must commit to improve downtown

Published 9:43pm Friday, October 18, 2013

It’s not very often you see members of the Selma City Council — dressed in suits and dresses — riding bikes along the sidewalks of Water Avenue in downtown Selma. Thursday might have been the only time that will likely happen, but it is something we should all enjoy.

The new bikes, part of an effort to add value to an overnight stay at the city-owned Historic St. James Hotel, provide a unique opportunity to travel through Selma’s downtown.

While we are tremendously proud of the place we call home, there is plenty of work needed in downtown to make it an overwhelmingly enjoyable experience to residents and visitors alike.

Despite the efforts of a few business and building owners, downtown Selma continues to be a place in desperate need for a facelift — actually, in some cases, a complete overhaul.

Recently it was announced the city had received a $400,000 grant to redevelop the west portion of Water Avenue from Broad Street to Church Street. The project will bring the appearance of the street up to the same level as the east side of the street.

This announcement came just a few short weeks after it was announced the city  — and the Selma-Dallas County Historic Preservation Society — had been awarded a $500,000 grant to continue the redevelopment of the Old YMCA building, located on Broad Street, directly across the street from Selma City Hall.

Both of these announcements are great news, but in each case, there is something — rather someone — missing.

That person missing is the private business community.

As these much-needed development projects are announced and begin, owners of the worst downtown buildings have remained silent. Heck, they have remained absent all together.

Where is the Freedom Foundation? What are their plans for the historic Teppers Building that remains to be a disappointing eyesore in the heart of downtown?

Where are the owners of the former Voting Rights Museum and Institute on Water Avenue? What are their plans for this iconic downtown location?

Even the city has questions to answer in regards to the over-grown lot located behind the façade of the former Cahaba Furniture building. Is it normal for trees and weeds to grow from the lot, through the fake windows into the view of passersby?

All of this is to say that the continued redevelopment of downtown Selma cannot be a one-sided relationship. It cannot be the lone responsibility of city officials to seek out grants for infrastructure and building development, without the private section taking an equal role.

There are those who have already done great work downtown. Their work is both celebrated and much-appreciated.

Unfortunately, they are just a few of the ones who need to step up and take part.

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