Bobby Foster is co-owner of the McClellan Park Medical Mall, which sits on the route through McClellan from Alabama 21 to the parkway. Since the new road opened, Café McClellan and The Spa at McClellan Park have seen a 15 to 20 percent increase in business, Foster said.
The mall actually sits near two major intersections on the former fort and Foster has counted the traffic at both intersections three times to get an idea of how many commuters there are on the fort.
“During daytimes, we’re averaging 600 to 700 cars an hour through those two intersections,” Foster said. “That’s probably four times what it was before.”
Robin Scott, executive director of the McClellan Development Authority, the group appointed to develop the fort after it was turned over to the city, asked the planning and development commission to do a traffic count on Bains Gap in February to get an accurate number.
Jack Plunk, principal planner for the commission, said the organization counted 3,495 cars over a 24-hour period. That is a similar count to Whites Gap Road in Jacksonville, a two-lane road in a rural residential area.
That traffic count is far under capacity for Bains Gap, Plunk said. The road is capable of handling 16,000 to 17,000 cars a day.
Foster thinks eventually the road might see that, and he’s hoping for it. He invested in the property because of its potential at that location.
“That’s why we picked this location four years ago,” Foster said. “We did that in anticipation of the road being done.”
Bains Gap Road is an entry road to McClellan from Alabama 9 to the east. Access to Bains Gap Road from Golden Springs is currently by way of Iron Mountain Road.
Most retail is driven by traffic counts, Foster said — what kind of traffic and where it is coming from. The better the count, the more attractive the location is to retailers. The increase is therefore good news to the businesses already set up at the mall, but it might also help attract others to that location. However, the slow economy is postponing a lot of retail development right now, he said.
“I think we’re still another six months to a year away from things being able to really explode like they can,” Foster said.
Still, Scott believes, the higher traffic is good for McClellan just because it is exposing the drivers, who may never have ventured onto the fort, to what is there.
“It exposes us, it gives visibility to some of our businesses that are out here,” Scott said. “We see it as a net plus.”
Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545.