By SHERRY DIGMON
News Staff Writer
The crowd exceeded expectations for the unveiling of the revitalization plan for Atmore as presented by Principal Community Planner Zack Mannheimer of McClure Engineering, who was hired to formulate the downtown rehabilitation plan.
Looking at the crowd of 115, Mannheimer said, “This is the reason why this plan is going to work … [This is] the catalyst that makes this work.”
He presented the Strand Theater and Downtown Atmore Action Plan.
“This is a guide,” he said. “There is not an idea here that didn’t come from the community. This is not a study – it’s an action plan. Work on this should begin tomorrow.”
The plan includes revitalization of the Strand, which was the original intent of the Pride of Atmore Committee, however, that intent has grown to include much more – the hardware store next to the Strand and the Anderson family properties (Radio Shack and Anderson’s Department Store).
Mannheimer recommends two phases with phase 1 being the Strand and the hardware store (both under the ownership of the Pride of Atmore), and the Anderson properties as phase 2.
Upgrading the Strand will be mostly cosmetic – enlarging the lobby, expanding concessions (maybe include pizza, beer and wine), open the balcony to seat 20 to 30 more people.
The hardware store could be converted into an event place.
The first floor might include a kitchen, a bar, open space for standing or seating, live music, poetry, and open mic.
Upstairs, he suggests a collaboration with the YMCA in offering classes – such as visual arts, foreign languages.
This building might include a sound recording studio and an artist residency program.
The Anderson family properties may not be purchased but used under long-term leases.
The first floor in both buildings might include a pizza parlor and bakery, and a children’s interactive zone.
Mannheimer sees upstairs in both buildings as being transformed into maker spaces – literally making things: woodworking, welding, technology, coding, a space to tinker and create. This could be a place for a hobbyist or someone starting their own business in collaboration with high and middle schools.
Mannheimer recommended Foster Kizer as project executive director due to his grant writing expertise, and “he has been doing the work already and can start working without pay.”
“This project should ‘infect’ every one of you,” Mannheimer said. “It takes a community effort … You have an amazing community with super passionate people. This turnout shows me that … I know this is going to happen.”
News photos by Ditto Gorme