A serious, quality redevelopment of the McFarland Mall would spread investment and development across a wide swath of Tuscaloosa, Mayor Walt Maddox said Wednesday morning.

As the Thread reported Tuesday, the Tuscaloosa City Council is currently weighing whether to grant businessman Stan Pate the largest economic incentives package in city history for something he's calling Project Encore. Although the specifics of the plan are kept secret by confidentiality agreements, Pate and city officials say he aims to bring new-to-market restaurants and retailers there alongside a hotel or two.

Both Maddox and Pate call the proposed incentives "risk-free" - the city would not give Pate and his team any cash for the project nor issue a bond to help finance it. Instead, the council is considering abating a maximum of $65.1 million in tax revenue generated at the site over the next 24 years.

Mayor Maddox joined the Steve & DC Morning Show on 95.3 the Bear Wednesday morning to discuss the project.

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He acknowledged a history of tension with Pate but said especially in recent years, they've found ways to work together productively.

"I've known Mr. Pate for a long time and certainly, you know, there have been ups and downs in that relationship because we're both pretty determined individuals and sometimes determined individuals have different feelings and thoughts," Maddox told the DJs. "My job is to represent this city and I love this city, I love this community and I believe Mr. Pate feels the same, and I think we both decided, you know, especially coming off the 2021 election cycle, let's both sit down and talk and figure a way to 'Yes.'"

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

Maddox said after years of proposals, rejections, counterproposals and a whole mountain of work by attorneys and consultants, the teams have come up with an incentive plan they feel is beneficial for everyone, especially the residents of south Tuscaloosa around McFarland Boulevard and Skyland Boulevard.

"Yesterday was a culmination of good faith efforts to get to an agreement that has no upfront money for the city of Tuscaloosa and puts all the risk on Mr. Pate," Maddox said. "There's not one bit of risk to the city of Tuscaloosa if this goes through."

Like Pate, Maddox cannot say much about prospective occupants of the redeveloped space, but he echoed sentiments that a lot of people will be pleased if some of these deals work out.

"There are some very good discussions that are ongoing with many names that people come to us and say, 'We would like that in our market," Maddox said.

If the incentives are approved, and Maddox believes they will be, Pate and his team would be responsible for clearing the site, building brand-new infrastructure and landing the tenants one at a time.

"What makes this agreement, if approved by the council, a little bit different is it's not going to be all at one time, like a University Mall or Midtown Village or Shoppes at Legacy Park," Maddox said. "The uniqueness of our economy, frankly, the uniqueness of who is being recruited into the site requires more of [...] a parcel-by-parcel approach."

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

Pate made his pitch Tuesday to the city council's finance committee, which has three voting members, but the entire seven-member council was there to hear about the project Tuesday.

The finance committee advanced the proposal, and now the full council is expected to host a public hearing and vote on whether to grant the incentives during their May 7th meeting in two weeks.

Maddox said he thinks the council will grant the incentive package.

"The council has been kept in the loop over the past couple of years. The city, our team, we've been updating the council every two or three weeks so there's not been any part of this process that should surprise any of them," Maddox said. "It doesn't mean they should not do their due diligence, they absolutely should. This is the largest economic incentive we've ever put before the city council, they need to do their due diligence. But at the same time, they have been part of this process since day one, they have been extremely supportive and [City Councilman Cassius] Lanier has done a good job of whipping the vote."

If it passes, Maddox said the first businesses to open will probably come in three years or so, but added that the tangible and intangible impact of the fully realized development is hard to overstate.

For instance, the agreement would not abate taxes that fund city schools, and Maddox said this property could reasonably generate more than $1 million a year in new revenue for the school system.

"There are certain properties that if that domino falls, then other properties are going to benefit, Maddox said. "The domino - if it's able to fall - at the old McFarland Mall site, all the way up to Hargrove Road on 82 and on Skyland Boulevard both east and west of the 82 intersection, I really think you're going to see that domino falling will have positive economic reverberations in that entire corridor."

For more on Project Encore as more details are released, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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