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Archer Daniels Midland Co. is giving the city of Decatur this property, which once housed a cotton gin and warehouse.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Archer Daniels Midland Co. is giving the city of Decatur this property, which once housed a cotton gin and warehouse.

Donated downtown land could spur development

By Evan Belanger · 340-2442

If you want to know the future of the old Tennessee Valley Cotton Mill property in downtown Decatur, you’ll have to use your imagination, says Mayor Don Kyle.

The property’s owner, Illinois-based Archer Daniels Midland Co., is donating the long-closed facility to the city. The City Council unanimously approved Monday spending $7,000 to cover legal and closing fees for accepting the 7.4-acre donation, located on West Moulton Street just west of the train tracks.

Kyle said they don’t know exactly what they will do with the property, but they hope to place it on the market for future development.

“It could be converted into just a green space for the time being and put on the market for proposals from any number of developers or businesses that might be interested,” he said.

That means tearing down three 35-year-old metal warehouses and one support structure. Kyle said he thinks a demolition company will do that job for free if it gets to keep the valuable metals.

He said the city will strive to get any development that will bring a large number of employees downtown. That should aid the city’s efforts to revitalize its downtown, Kyle said.

“I think head count really helps the revitalization of the downtown,” he said. “I’d like to see something that would put a fairly dense population of employees in the downtown area, because that would help support the restaurants that are downtown and solicit additional restaurants into the downtown area.”

Lots of possibilities

Possibilities being discussed by city leaders include relocating the Morgan County Health Department to the site. Kyle said the department is fairly crowded at the current location, and the city would like to keep it downtown.

Other possibilities include an office complex.

“We don’t seem to have a huge, huge demand for office space in the downtown area,” Kyle said.

“But who knows what will come if the property is there and available with BRAC coming to Huntsville?”

Base Realignment and Closure is a federal government program that is expected to bring more than 4,700 military jobs to the Tennessee Valley by 2011. The program is also expected to create thousands more military support jobs.

All of the proposed uses for the property fall within a 2004 study for downtown revitalization strategies called Envision Decatur. At a cost of $200,000, the city and the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce commissioned the study.

It specifically calls for the industrial property along Dry Creek to be divided into office space and recreational areas. It names the proposed development area “Decatur Commons.”

Whatever becomes of the property, Kyle said, it is a generous gift. According to the Morgan County revenue commissioner’s office, the land and the buildings are valued at more than $478,000.

It is not clear why ADMC is donating the property. Kyle said he knows it has been on the market for several years without a buyer.

Calls to the ADMC corporate office in Decatur, Ill., were not returned.

If the property is developed into a site for a significant employer, it will be the second to locate in downtown Decatur this year. In August, Mutual Savings Life Insurance Co. announced it was relocating its headquarters on U.S. 31 to the former AmSouth building in downtown Decatur.

The company requested permission to use 110 city parking spaces for employee parking during the week. City officials expect the move to begin Sept. 30.

Kyle said the donated property will also be the first revitalization project to occur west of the train tracks, an area that has seen little growth in the past three decades.

“There are any number of things that could happen. Just use your imagination, really,” he said.

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