Take a vacant structure — a building, a lot, a complex — and redevelop it as something markedly different than it was before. Don't automatically put a grocery inside a vacant grocery. Don't replace a lost fast-food joint with another greasy spoon.
Literally, think out of the box. Don't be beholden to what's easy or routine.
Boldness is preferred.
Let's call it The McClellan Theory — the idea used at Anniston's former Army post in which former PX buildings, parade grounds and hospitals now are satellite college campuses, youth sports complexes and federal training centers. In other words, don't think of what something used to be; think of what it could become.
In a few weeks, the council will get the opportunity to put The McClellan Theory to use when it considers a proposal to turn the Lenlock Community Center into a botanical garden. That idea, carried by the staff of the Anniston Museum of Natural History and Berman Museum, has strong merit.
The council should give it full consideration.
Why? There are two reasons.
First, it makes perfect sense to consider an expansion and scope of the museums' campus. The museums are cornerstone elements of the city's arts and entertainment scene. They draw in visitors and offer learning opportunities for school-aged children across northeast Alabama. And, as seen with several of the museum's hyped projects — most notably its dinosaur exhibit in 2007 — they produce the type of positive cultural events from which Calhoun County certainly benefits.
That the city-owned museums have staff members and volunteers with expertise who can help with the design and creation of the gardens only strengthens their case.
Second, the community center complex cannot sit empty when the city moves the programs elsewhere. That would be the worst option the council could choose. Having another vacant building in Anniston — regardless of who owns it or where it sits — simply must be avoided.
That's why this proposal makes so much sense.
The city wants to move the center. When it does, the property — its building and green space — will need a tenant. And the staff of the museums, which sit next door, would love to turn that expanse into walking trails, multi-hued gardens and ample opportunities for botanical education and research.
So, the message to the council: Give this proposal a chance.
What's more, use it as an example for what's possible around town. Sure, developers are picky, and property owners want top dollar. Redeveloping property that the city doesn't own isn't a quick-fix scheme.
But be bold with ideas. Think of possibilities, not limitations. Different can be good.