Pilgrim’s Pride site redevelopment moves forward

ATHENS, Ala. - City leaders said 'Yes' to the next phase of redeveloping the old Pilgrim's Pride plant site.

In a divided vote, the council agreed to hire a design firm to draw up a master plan for what will eventually become a multi-use park.

"For so long, they looked out their windows and there was that big, old metal building," said councilmember Harold Wales.

Ten years after the old Pilgrim's Pride plant on Pryor Street went out of business.

"It's been such an eyesore for years," said Wales.

Athens leaders already paid over $1 million to tear down and haul away the old plant. For years, Mayor Ronnie Marks has envisioned turning the 33 acres into a park.

"Very forward thinking in this, to go out and basically purchase the most blighted property in Athens," said Chris Paysinger with Reconstruction South.

With three yays, and two nay votes Monday evening, the council approved paying $130,000 to hire the firm Farmer Morgan to design a master plan for the site.

"That outside perspective. It gives you the ability to see what other people are doing and doing well," said Paysinger.

"Surround it with high-end apartments or townhouses," suggested Wales.

The two dissenting votes from the council argued the money should be paid for by the private sector. But, with an agreement in place, the new park is one step closer to reality.

"The citizens of Athens really going to have an opportunity to weigh in. Livability, recreation, convenience, possibly restaurants and mixed-use," said Paysinger,

"We'll work on grants and talk to private investors," said Wales.

Farmer Morgan is tasked with collecting input from neighbors and city leaders, as well as finding potential developers.

It's expected to take Farmer Morgan several months to draft the master plan. Wales said it could take as long as five or ten years to fully build and attract businesses to the new park.

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