VESTAVIA HILLS, AL (WBRC) - How much is a new Highway 31 corridor worth to Vestavia Hills?
At least $1 million. That's how much they're spending to buy the former Food World store as part of a new effort to revitalize that district.
If you want to see what the cliché "two steps forward, one step back" looks like, here's a perfect example: on one side of Highway 31, several developers are circling the Food World building as a redevelopment site.
But just across the street are two now-empty buildings where Ruby Tuesday and Pizza Hut stood open just a few months ago.
"This is not gonna be something where we wave a magic wand and something happens overnight," said Vestavia Hills Mayor Butch Zaragoza. "This is going to be a 20-25 year project."
That may sound like a long time span, but Zaragoza says the first step is turning this site into a building with stores on the bottom floor and three to four stories of condos on top.
"It's kind of a blend of a walkable community, people living in and around a shopping center area."
That's what a new master plan for Highway 31 calls for. You can see the vision in a new video the city put online.
The mayor says the goal is to transform the area through public private partnerships, and there's no better place to start then this investment in the Food World site, and these abandoned restaurants.
"We've gotta show them what we think can be put there, and then try to encourage them to come in and go in and fix their property," Zaragoza said. "This is a good time to do that because both buildings are sitting empty."
Mayor Zaragoza says the city will concentrate on two areas for now: the Food World site and the southern end of Highway 31 near I-65.