Vestavia gets new eateries for lagging Hwy 31 corridor

VESTAVIA HILLS, AL (WBRC) - By Jonathan Hardison

VESTAVIA HILLS, AL (WBRC) - Three new restaurants are on the way to the Vestavia City Center. That shopping center has changed owners and tenants over the past year.

Mugshots, a sports bar that's done well in Tuscaloosa, will occupy the space once held by New Orleans Food and Spirits. The center will also get a La Paz and a Zoe's Kitchen within a few months. La Paz will slide into what used to be Nina's and a new Zoe's is in the works in the Publix shopping center next door.

The goal is to reverse a business decline along the Highway 31 corridor.

Vestavia City Center is probably best known for the Rave movie theater behind it and the empty space in front of it. But that front side is about to change.

"Anytime there's action and it just doesn't seem like empty space anymore, it brings people in the area, which is really good," said Jim Grazner, owner of Prescription Fitness, next door to the new Mugshots. "So I'm looking really forward to having Mugshots next door to us because they're very successful in Tuscaloosa. I've met the guys over there, they're pretty pumped on being here, Vestavia needed it."

The irony of a beer and wings place next door to his weight loss business isn't lost on Grazner, "I think it's great to have wings next to a weight-loss place. We've got a laser so we can fix their face after they're done."

Neither is the impact a successful launch could have on he and other tenants.

"This actually gives people a reason to come up over the mountain and not just be in Mt. Brook, Crestline, and Southside," he added.

Mayor Alberto Zaragoza says, "This kind of blends in to what we're looking at, which is revitalization of Hwy 31. So this is a starting point for us."

Vestavia Hills is in talks with Market Street Services, the same consulting firm that did Blueprint Birmingham to map out a 5-year plan to revitalize the entire Highway 31 corridor where sales taxes have been down the last 2 years.

"We can't go out here and find a 30-acre plot to put a shopping center on," Zaragoza said. "We've got to revitalize our community. We've been told by economic development people we're an old community, and we've got to refresh ourselves."

The city hopes to have an agreement in place with Market Street as soon as the end of this month or next month once the city council can take a look at it.

La Paz should open by Cinco de Mayo and Mugshots maybe sooner.

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