- There likely was no perfect choice.
- Downtown Anniston, particularly west of Noble Street, needs landmark projects to jump-start development in that part of the city.
- For myriad reasons, not everyone is going to like the GSA’s choice — ranging from personal concerns, apprehension over how it will affect local businesses, or unease over the preservation of historic locations. All are valid concerns.
At the least, the GSA’s decision to put the new courthouse on a block bounded by 10th and 11th streets and Moore and Gurnee avenues brings closure to a lengthy and complicated selection process more than five years in the making.
Now, Anniston leaders can get on with the long-range vision of remaking a sizeable portion of the city’s downtown corridor. The site of the new federal courthouse no longer is a frustrating variable left dangling in the air.
It isn’t improper to envision a downtown that features several noteworthy changes. Barring unforeseen bumps in the road, Annistonians can look forward to the day when the renovated Watermark Tower at 10th and Noble streets is home to multiple tenants, including the Anniston Water Works and Sewer Board; when the former Chalk Line site is redeveloped; and when the new federal courthouse transforms an entire city block.
Likewise, it isn’t foolish to agree with those who believe the courthouse can become a magnet that attracts businesses to adjacent locations. Quality can attract quality.
Nevertheless, count this editorial board among those who aren’t sold on every aspect of the GSA’s decision.
Call this Spirit of Anniston trepidation group: Betsy Bean, Spirit’s director, is right to have concerns over the project’s effect on the historic character of Anniston’s downtown.
Say what you will about the city’s central core; it needs improvements, for sure. But several downtown locations related to the civil rights era, including the Freedom Riders bus stop on Gurnee Avenue — which isn’t on the block the government will buy — are irreplaceable parts of Anniston’s past. Those spots should be preserved as part of this state’s history.
It will be a strong mark against the planners of this block-sized federal project if they do not work with Spirit and other leaders to protect and preserve downtown’s historic locations and character. In fact, Bean should be encouraged to move forward with her ideas to market the city’s civil-rights locations.
Anniston stands to gain from the opening of the Eastern Parkway and the restoration of the Watermark Tower. Adding the construction of a new federal courthouse to that list of improvements doesn’t seem like a mistake.