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Railroad Park back on Track

19 January 2006

It lives! So says the Mayor, according to a news report in yesterday’s paper. After the panic over the future of the park prior to the Christmas holidays, it’s nice to hear that Mayor Kincaid and Giles Perkins are working together to bring such an important project to fruition.

Railroad park backers assure mayor
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
JOSEPH D. BRYANT
News staff writer

The city of Birmingham and supporters of a proposed downtown park have settled their differences, and the project can move forward, Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid said Tuesday. Kincaid and the Friends of the Railroad Reservation District had differences over control of the fund-raising and operation of the 70-acre park proposed to be built between downtown and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Kincaid announced during Tuesday’s City Council meeting that FoRRD, a nonprofit organization, had withdrawn its original proposal to manage the park’s construction and fund-raising. Instead, the group will work toward a more agreeable document, he said. “The impediment to our moving forward has moved to the side,” he said. Kincaid had objected to the 12-page contract, saying it gave the private organization too much control of the project.

Kincaid received a one paragraph letter Tuesday saying that a FoRRD member had withdrawn the contentious proposal. In the contract, FoRRD would have managed the park’s fund-raising and construction and would have submitted a budget to a three-member oversight committee appointed by the mayor’s office, City Council and FoRRD.

FoRRD President Giles Perkins had said private dollars would come easier with a private group heading the effort rather than the city. That comment angered Kincaid who called it condescending and insulting.

“It was not intended to offend, and we apologize for the effect it had,” the letter from FoRRD read. “We look forward to working with you towards a document that is best for our community and this project.”

Kincaid said the city and the organization can find an appropriate role for FoRRD now that the contentious proposal had been rescinded. “We certainly will be working to partner with FoRRD in terms of the fund-raising aspect,” he said. “To be sure, your fund-raising partner has a say in what’s happening. FoRRD will have its say in this project’s success.”

Perkins said he appreciated Kincaid’s comments. “We look to moving this city forward and we’re eager to sit down and negotiate,” Perkins said.

The first phase of the park, 14 acres between 14th and 18th streets south, will cost about $10 million. More than $7 million in city, county and federal money has been pledged. When complete, the park will be 70-acres stretching along First Avenue South from part of Titusville to Sloss Furnaces and is expected to stimulate further commercial and residential growth in the area. The entire project is estimated at $30 million.

Kincaid said he will set up meetings with the City Council and Perkins in the coming weeks to outline participation in the project. “It is a project that’s going to be built,” he said. “It is on track.”

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