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A local real estate group is involved in a development proposal that would include a  five-story building on Tennessee Street that would include 112 residential units with retail spaces on the ground floor, and possibly even a boutique grocer. [COURTESY]

FLORENCE — A local real estate group has a vision of a $49.5 million five-story mixed-use development on Tennessee Street that would include 112 residential units with retail spaces on the ground floor.

James Bobo, of the Florence firm Bobo Family Group, said the plan also features 323 office spaces with high-income occupants in the office and residential units.

"If we can get the office buildings pre-leased to 55%, we're green lighted," Bobo said.

It would border East Mobile and Walnut street and North Wood Avenue on property that currently is not developed, he said. Bobo stressed this remains in the planning stage, as he is in the due-diligence period of the project and continues to seek funding for it, but there are groups interested in it.

He said he is in conversations with the owners of a company that is considering taking up about 24% of the office space.

He did not reveal the name of the company but said it is a "top five financial institute" in Alabama and the average pay of those workers would be about $80,000.

"My target pay is $65,000 per person in the office space," he said. "That's entry level range of tech and high-tech employment."

According to an economic impact study, the development would have a $111 million impact on the community and produce 730 jobs directly or indirectly, Bobo said. That includes approximately 373 construction jobs paying a combined $17.5 million.

The study points out those are temporary jobs, but the facility's operation would have long-range impacts.

"During the operational period, all economic impacts are sustained indefinitely because the jobs, incomes and output of the development continue each year," it states. "Including three jobs at the residential portion of the project, 402 jobs with a combined payroll of $23.1 million is expected to be generated by the businesses in the complex."

The average wage for those jobs is expected to be $57,000, according to the study. The current average wage in Lauderdale County is approximately $40,000.

Those jobs would impact an additional 367 jobs that are responsible for $12.1 million in the economy, according to the study.

Bobo said the project is about much more than the facility, itself. It is an effort that would provide an economic boost for the Shoals while bringing in a base of residents who have high-paying jobs.

"I'm just really interested in seeing a shift in employment opportunities and various opportunities for the Shoals," he said. "The core of this is economic development."

He said he hopes this enhances efforts to retain young talent, including new University of North Alabama graduates.

"To me it goes back to that brain drain, and actively recruiting that talent," Bobo said. "We're producing some high quality human capital out of UNA and our high schools."

The top of the structure could include an outdoor patio with a restaurant or bar-type concept, Bobo said. He also wants some 7,000 square feet set aside for a fine dining restaurant and is looking for a boutique grocer, possibly on the east side of the building.

The ground floor would be reserved for retail, and food and beverage businesses.

Plans also call for a plaza area.

"I envision using that to activate the space," Bobo said. "Maybe have a farmer's market once a week, yoga or Pilates in the morning, outdoor dining, etc. It's a pretty flexible space.

"This type of mixed-use development is appealing to younger generations and also some of the boomers who are moving out of their homes and looking for a more urban, walking-geared environment," Bobo said. "It's geared to a multitude of people."

He said about 370 parking spaces would be required during daytime hours. Bobo has met with city leaders on the proposal, as well as a need for a parking deck.

"It's a very nice development proposal for Tennessee Street," Mayor Steve Holt said. "This is an upscale development that would be a huge addition not just for the central business district but for the entire city. It's positive growth and I hope it works out."

Holt said the development has a "big-city feel to it."

Florence officials have been discussing the need for a new parking deck, and Holt said one would fit well near the proposed development's location.

He said he is glad someone with Bobo's reputation is working on the project.

"He and his family are well established business owners here," Holt said. "He does have some potential clients to occupy some of the space."

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski


(3) comments

Jerry DeGregory

Mayor Holt certainly got it right, the Bobo "vision" described in this article "has a big-city feel." But if the mayor thinks THAT is a good thing, he has it wrong after all. The city of Florence has a well-balanced, thriving college town atmosphere. It's downtown area, unlike that of many big cities, is not a dangerous, uninviting place to be after dark. It is filled with attractive, enjoyable places to visit day and night and those of us who have lived here for decades enjoy the fact that it is NOT a big city. Please think about what makes Florence attractive to so many of us. It is not its big city ambiance because it doesn't have one--THAT is a good thing.

Rosalie DeGregory

Let those who have visions pay for their visions. We all have many visions that would help US, but most of us don't look for taxpayer money to do it for us.

Drew Talley

This a private development.

This would be huge for Florence and the entire Shoals. This is beautiful building! Please make this project happen! That would make downtown look so cool! 🤞🤞🤞

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