Editorial: ‘Way Ahead’ to the goal — MDA’s latest plan for McClellan could lead to significant developments
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Sep 26, 2013 | 2477 views |  0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
McClellan, the former U.S. Army post solidly tied to Calhoun County’s future, is the epitome of the half-full, half-empty cliche.

A quick drive around the acreage offers proof. It’s home to the city of Anniston’s youth sports complex and its swimming facility. It’s home to medical offices, residential communities, a school and colleges, a Lowe’s hardware store, apartment complexes, industrial businesses, the Alabama National Guard, the Calhoun County highway department and Alagasco, to name a few.

McClellan also is home to innumerable parcels of land and rehabilitatable buildings still unsold 14 years after the post’s closure.

Undoubtedly, it’s time to get aggressive with McClellan’s marketing and rebirth.

We are not shy about our vision for a redeveloped McClellan being the economic engine this county — and much of northeast Alabama, for that matter — sorely needs. Its potential is both great and unrealized. And its future needs to arrive, now.

On Wednesday, the McClellan Development Authority took a step in the right direction by approving its “Way Ahead” plan — a forward-thinking plan that puts defined goals and specific ideas on paper. At the heart of the plan is the marketing of three sites (125 total acres) of the former post for retail development. As reported by The Star’s Paige Rentz, the MDA will begin clear-cutting and preparing the three sites as finances allow.

“You’re going to see the Eastern Parkway nearly finished,” MDA Board Chairman Phil Webb said. “You’re going to see Pappy Dunn Boulevard finished; you’re going to see more acreage ready to bring well-paying jobs in here ... you’re going to see Iron Mountain Access Road completed, from Jacksonville nearly to Oxford.”

In other words, McClellan’s time has arrived. We wholeheartedly support the MDA’s ramping up of its plans to market and sell the property’s available sites.

We also remind Calhoun Countians of a little needed context here. This summer, The Star highlighted the redevelopment efforts of the former Fort Devens in Massachusetts. There, a public-private organization, MassDevelopment, has directed efforts that have transformed a shuttered military base into a thriving community of businesses and residents. Assistance from the state of Massachusetts has been critical in Devens’ rebirth.

McClellan isn’t as fortunate. It has no equivalent to MassDevelopment. The Alabama Legislature isn’t offering a helping hand filled with state-level fiscal support. (We hope Montgomery will, however, and soon.) The MDA, though worthy, is piloting McClellan’s path on a budget hardly comparable to Devens’.

Nevertheless, excuses aren’t worth Calhoun Countians’ time.

The speed of McClellan redevelopment has critics and proponents. The truth exists somewhere in between. If successful, the MDA’s “Way Ahead” plan could be just what the property needs, a way to its inherent future.
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