City leaders break ground on Westin hotel

By Alan Collins

BIRMINGHAM (WBRC) - What's being called a major shot in the arm for the development of downtown Birmingham, city officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for the new $70 million Westin Hotel and surrounding entertainment district.

Mayor William Bell, City Councilors and members of the BJCC Board took park in the event, and all agree that the hotel will be an encouraging asset to the area.

"It's going to be a major shot. It's not the only shot," Bell said. "We need to continue to change the whole complexion of downtown Birmingham."

The hotel will add 300 rooms to the area in attracting major conventions to Birmingham.

"This is a major step forward. It will give us more than a thousand rooms within walking distance," Mike Calvert of Operation New Birmingham said.

Some Birmingham residents who live in downtown believe the development will be good for the entire area.

"Make it better where you can go different places. Jobs," Gloria Williams, a downtown resident said.

The impact is expected to improve entire neighborhoods.

"One of our projects is the enhancement of the 16th Street corridor. So when they come off of 65 and come here they are going to pass through Fountain Heights," Doris Powell, the president of Fountain Heights Neighborhood Association said.
The entertainment district project is estimated to take about 22 months to complete. No construction date has been set yet.

Bell believes once it's complete, it will send a strong message about the Magic City: "It's not dead. I don't think anyone thinks it's dead."

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