Will a Ramsay McCormack ruling greenlight redevelopment?

Will a Ramsay McCormack ruling greenlight redevelopment?
The Ramsay-McCormack Building. Source: WBRC video

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Another barrier to redevelopment of Birmingham’s Ensley community, specifically the vacant Ramsay McCormack building, seems to have fallen.

In one of his last rulings before retiring, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo ruled Friday he would not hold the City of Birmingham in contempt of court, in a lawsuit brought nearly 10 years ago by members of the Ensley community to press the city to either demolish or renovate the decaying building.

The ruling appears to clear the way for the city to go forward with an agreement it announced in October, to have a team of developers led by Irvin Henderson of North Carolina renovate the building and redevelop the area around it.

“We are very pleased with Judge Graffeo’s ruling” says a statement from Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office. “As laid out in the agreement with the developer and presented to Judge Graffeo,” the statement continues, “a detailed timeline has been put into place to renovate the Ramsay McCormack Building and jumpstart the Ensley business district. This includes the growth of local businesses, including a new restaurant that will open this month in the Ensley business district.”

However, a timeline and proposed sanctions to keep the city honest are exactly what’s missing from the judge’s order according to attorney Antonio Spurling, who brought the original suit on behalf of Playover Games, LLC, Hope International and the Ensley Revitalization Committee. That lawsuit was filed when Mayor William Bell was in office.

Spurling says he says he plans to file a motion asking the court to add some sanction to keep the renovation moving forward in a community that has been waiting decades for action on the building. He also wants the city to do whatever it has to, to make sure the building becomes viable again, noting the city’s redevelopment plan calls for four million dollars in investment.

“What we’re saying” says Spurling, “is no, the city has an obligation to renovate the building whether it’s a four million dollar investment or a fourteen million dollar investment.”

This is the full statement on the Ramsay McCormack ruling from Mayor Randall Woodfin’s office:

"We are very pleased with Judge Graffeo’s ruling. The city is committed to a comprehensive plan to renovate the Ramsay McCormack Building while enhancing the Ensley business district. The revitalization of downtown Ensley is a priority for Mayor Woodfin to support the residents and business owners.

The city is currently reviewing a work plan from the minority-owned and nationally recognized Ensley District Developers concerning next steps for the building. As laid out in the agreement with the developer and presented to Judge Graffeo, a detailed timeline has been put into place to renovate the Ramsay McCormack Building and jumpstart the Ensley business district. This includes the growth of local businesses, including a new restaurant that will open this month in the Ensley business district."

For reference to the agreement, click on this link.

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