Elected officials in Tuscaloosa moved forward on the largest-ever incentive package in city history Tuesday, bringing a developer's legacy project one step closer to reality.

Businessman Stan Pate appeared before the city council's finance committee Tuesday afternoon to request tax abatements for a project he is calling "Encore," which would completely redevelop the now mostly demolished McFarland Mall property where Highway 82 and Skyland Boulevard meet near Interstate 20 / 59's Exit 73.

Pete is asking for the council to abate a little more than $65 million in tax revenue generated by restaurants, retailers and hotels he hopes to bring to the property. Pate says the incentive is risk-free for the city council and residents of Tuscaloosa - more on that later.

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Pate is already known for several successful developments in the area, including what he calls the Exit 71 corridor, where decades ago he developed the Lowe's and more off Skyland Boulevard, and also Midtown Village further up McFarland Boulevard.

He told the finance committee Tuesday that Encore could eclipse all that - the Exit 73 is a better location, and the bridge recently named in memory of his father which overshadows the McFarland Mall site only makes this project that much more important to Pate.

He first bought the property in 2009, and now most of the structures there have been demolished to make way for potential new development - except a Dollar Tree store that Pate said has around two years left on their lease.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

Much of Pate's proposal for the site is still unknown, and he and the city council are bound by confidentiality agreements that prevent them from saying too much about potential tenants there. Still, he said his top priority is to bring retailers and restaurants to the site that people want to see come to the Tuscaloosa market.

"We're not asking the community to put up one penny, not asking the community to risk one cent," Pate said. "We're asking to show confidence in me and the team, whether it be employees or professional service providers who are working with me, that we can do this project and deliver something that everybody will be proud of. It won't be everything somebody wants, but there will be a lot that Tuscaloosa does not have."

There is also plenty of information about what it won't include - city attorney Scott Holmes rattled off a list of prohibited developments if the city agrees the the incentive.

Those include bars, pubs and nightclubs except those incidental to a larger operation, such as a hotel bar, strip clubs, topless clubs, billiards or bingo parlors, flea markets, massage parlors, funeral homes, facilities for the sale of paraphernalia for the use of drugs or pornographic material, carnivals, amusement parks, laundromats, any facility for gambling, any facility related to producing or selling cannabis, check-cashers, title loan operations, pawn shops, tattoo or piercing parlors and even more.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

Pate showed promising rapport with the entire city council, but particularly with Cassius Lanier, who represents the area of the city where the project is proposed, and with mayor Walt Maddox, who has clashed with the developer on plenty of occasions in the past.

"This development is super important to me and super important to the people of District 7 and I know they deserve it," Lanier said. "I definitely want to see this happen."

Maddox agreed.

"I appreciate the city council over the past year and your guidance to us as we've been moving forward, I think that input and guidance has gotten us to a point today that we have something that we think can really be a domino that falls in such a positive way for south Tuscaloosa," Maddox said. "We talked earlier about the Amphitheater - that was a domino that needed to fall that has created so much progress. I see this as a domino."

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)

Pate said the most attractive part of his proposal is that it is zero-risk to the city. Instead of asking for cash incentives or a bond issuance for the project, Pate instead is asking for the abatement of $65.1 million in taxes generated by tenants in the development, or for abatements through 2048 - whichever comes first.

Pate and the tenants only earn the incentive when they begin generating revenue for the city, and the portion of that revenue that funds education would not be abated.

Still, Pate is confident that with the new-to-market restaurants and retailers he might draw to the site, the risk is worth taking.

"This is eat what I kill, OK?" Pate told the elected officials Tuesday. "But we're pretty good hunters."

Councilman Lee Busby, who chairs the finance committee, noted that the ask is a historic one, but said something with this scope should not be decided by a three-voting-member committee, but by the entire council.

"This has been a long back-and-forth process and this thing, as so many endeavors do, looks dramatically different today as it arrives on our tabletop than it did when it started out," Busby said. "This exceeds by several magnitudes any incentive this city has ever given. It impacts districts across the entire city - this is definitely a seven-person vote."

With that, the finance committee then unanimously voted to advance the proposal to the full council, who could consider it as early as Tuesday, May 7th.

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