In a two-day span, the McClellan Development Authority twice announced that more vacant buildings and empty land would become home to offices, industries and workers. Spinning that into a negative is possible, but why would you?
Sadly, the shelf life of that flawed logic hasn't yet expired.
For those who yearn for McClellan and Anniston to both succeed — which is possible — the details of last week's announcements weren't sexy. No big-box retailers were rolled out. No new upscale subdivisions were unveiled. No international industry signed a contract.
But neither were the developments small-potatoes fare. What's happening is important.
Alagasco is keeping its business office on Noble Street, but it will move its operations center to the McClellan Industrial District. A new, 15,000 square-foot building may be finished sometime in 2010. The cost: approximately $1.5 million.
The Coosa Valley Resource Conservation & Development Council wants to be the next McClellan tenant. Once its deal is finalized, the council will house its main offices in the renovated Burger King building and turn the post's bowling alley into a convention center and office complex.
Ronnie Smith, the chairman of the MDA, said this about the Alagasco move: "I think it's an excellent deal, and we're really excited about it." Which, of course, could be the sentiment about either of last week's developments — or, for that matter, for most projects that bring jobs and people to former military land further embedded into Anniston's future.
Yes, Mr. Smith, it's an excellent deal.
What was fascinating was to feel the undercurrent — and read it on The Star's Web site message boards — of those who feel McClellan's successes often stab Anniston proper in the back. They see it as robbing Peter to pay Paul. And Anniston, as everyone knows, is in no position to withstand repeated wounds.
It's the same supposition that says Anniston's core corridor — Quintard Avenue — and downtown business district is doomed, with little hope for economic survival, when the Eastern Parkway opens.
Look, Anniston has its problems; the list is substantial, and because of McClellan redevelopment, changes in the business community and its often-dysfunctional council, the jobs at hand can be quite the task. Anniston's a case study in many things, some of them not particularly attractive.
Nevertheless, Anniston is laden with many of the same inherent issues — population shifts, business relocations, zoning issues, demographic alterations, competition from nearby cities — that others face as well.
What can't happen is the espousal of a zero-sum mentality involving McClellan and Anniston proper. It's a crass cliché, but that's cutting off your nose to spite your face. And, last time I checked, Anniston's Leighton Avenue medical community didn't wither when the McClellan Park Medical Mall took up shop in the old Army post exchange.
Cities aren't static, never-changing entities. They're fluid, with myriad alterations filling each decade. Like it or not, Anniston today doesn't look like Anniston of the 1970s. Likewise, Anniston today won't resemble Anniston in 2050. Change is inevitable.
If you don't believe that, then ask Oxford residents, many who seem to have few problems building, developing, taking risks and embracing alterations to their city.
People move in or move out. Old businesses close, new businesses move in. Industries shutter. Let's hope new industries take their place. There's no fault that people prefer their cities and neighborhoods and shopping districts to stay just as they like them — if they do.
But that doesn't always happen.
What's critical is that cities can't make the mistake of shunning opportunity that can rewrite a city's future. Measured risks have to be considered — and sometimes taken. Change has to be seen as a chance for rebirth or reincarnation. And rebirth is something Anniston desperately needs.
In other words, instead of looking at the parkway as a death sentence for downtown Anniston, see it as a chance for downtown Anniston — already pockmarked with empty store fronts — to resurrect itself as something different, and better, than it is today. See McClellan as what it is, part of the city that must be properly developed. No one says it will be pain-free.
Critics love degrading Anniston for its myriad faults; fine, if that's your hobby. But the inevitable change that's coming Anniston's way can be a civic positive — if it leads to the greater good of all. That has to be the goal.