Image by Keith McCoy
Lorna Road City Projects
Several area on or near Lorna Road have seen an increase in city attention as the Hoover Council looks to improve the corridor.
City Efforts to Improve Lorna Road
— Action: Purchase of La Chateau apartment complex near Lorna and Patton Chapel roads for $2.4 million in December 2010, along with $406,200 for asbestos removal and demolition of the apartment complex.
Impact: Opening of Walmart Neighborhood Market on the former apartment site, which city leaders believe is serving as a catalyst for reviving all of Lorna Road.
— Action: Tax incentive package totaling $25 million approved by the Hoover City Council in 2011 for upgrades to improve the Riverchase Galleria.
Impact: The opening of new stores at the mall, including Von Maur and Old Navy, along with infrastructure improvements that are making the Galleria more attractive and bringing back customers.
Lorna Road is sporting a fresher look lately with an influx of new businesses that are making the area more attractive, increasing Hoover’s revenues and are expected to help the city recruit additional retailers.
The revitalization is occurring in an area that had been crippled by a faltering economy, business closures due to bankruptcies and an aging apartment complex that was an eyesore near Lorna and Patton Chapel roads.
Visitors to this section of Lorna Road are likely to find it almost unrecognizable from what they remember just a few years ago. In The Village on Lorna, the space previously occupied by a Food World that closed in 2008 is now home to Bargain Hunt, which allows shoppers to buy liquidated merchandise.
The need for another grocery store was realized last August when a Walmart Neighborhood Market opened where the La Chateau apartment complex, which many considered a blemish, once existed.
Along with additional revenues flowing into city coffers and employment opportunities for Hoover residents, Mayor Gary Ivey said the new businesses are improving the area’s appearance.
“We replaced the apartments and sold that property to Walmart, which then generated an incredibly good-looking commercial spot,” Ivey said. “In my opinion, that helped recruit Bargain Hunt across the street, and together, they’ve both helped to clean up that area.”
The city’s finance director, Robert Yeager, said that Walmart is serving as a catalyst in reviving a stretch of Lorna Road that extends to Highway 31, and he praised efforts by Ivey and the Hoover City Council to make that happen.
“There’s no question that it was great leadership by the mayor and council to take that terrible piece of property and turn it into a productive piece of property,” Yeager said. “I thought it was extremely visionary, and good things started happening after we got rid of the bad piece of property.”
Yeager said the city succeeded in creating a new source of revenue by purchasing the foreclosed apartment complex and clearing the property before putting it up for sale.
The Hoover City Council sold the property to Walmart for $2.8 million in 2012. The city completed the sale after first purchasing the apartment complex for $2.4 million in December 2010, followed by spending $406,200 for asbestos removal and demolition of the structure.
“The Walmart folks are the ones that came to the table with a contract, and we sold it to them,” Yeager said.
A ripple effect
The enhanced appearance isn’t confined to one section of Lorna Road.
A deteriorating Omelet Shoppe, which closed years ago near the intersection of Lorna Road and Highway 31, has been replaced with a sparkling new Steak ‘n Shake restaurant. Just feet away, a Walgreens offers Hoover residents another shopping option in place of a convenience store previously located there.
Kathleen Spencer, chair of the Hoover Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee, said both economic considerations and the area’s appearance necessitated the need for new development along Lorna Road.
“That’s an area that the mayor and the council have been dedicating a lot of time to because it needed improvement,” Spencer said. “I think part of the declining process has been related to the economy with some businesses failing.”
Yeager said Hoover reports revenue for the entire city and not certain areas. The impact of action by the city, he said, can be seen in other terms that transcend the businesses’ revenue potential.
“We took a very underperforming piece of property in the apartment parcel and turned it into a Walmart,” Yeager said. Soon after, Bargain Hunt was occupying the Food World space.
“You get positive things happening and it trickles down,” he said. “But as far as being able to quantify it, we’ve not tried to do that.”
The Riverchase Galleria is also boasting a new look thanks to efforts by city leaders. A tax incentive package totaling $25 million was approved by the council in 2011 for upgrades to improve the mall’s appearance.
A rising tide
The changes are also benefiting other venues in the area. Tynette Lynch, chief executive officer of Aldridge Gardens, said the new businesses are not only improving the neighborhood’s appearance, but also bringing more residents.
“I’m excited with everything that’s going on,” Lynch said. “It was an area that needed to be cleaned up, and Walmart brought a new life to make the area look much better.
“It helps us to appear to be in a safe location and have a nice neighborhood surround us,” she added. “It’s a more enjoyable area when everything surrounding it looks very positive and you see growth.”
Businesses already operating in the area have also seen a benefit from the improvements. “It’s bringing more people into the area,” said Patricia Taylor, assistant manager of Fred’s Pharmacy located in The Village on Lorna with Bargain Hunt.
Spencer anticipates the improvements will attract additional retailers and restaurants to the area.
“Once a couple of stores start going in, you’re going to find more going in,” she said. “Those are busy areas, and I think that you’re going to find that area in the middle start building up.”
“If I’m a retailer wanting to come into this area, and I look at that specific area and I see a lot of places that are old or gone out of business, I’m probably not going to be too attracted to that area,” Spencer said.
By contrast, she said the influx of retailers like Walmart and Walgreens, along with restaurants like Steak ‘n Shake, is something that’s likely to catch the attention of other businesses.
“I’m thinking, ‘Something’s going on here,’” Spencer said. “Success does breed success.”