Century Plaza possible location for regional jail

Century Plaza possible location for regional jail

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The owner of Century Plaza Mall believe it would be a good location for a regional jail. But, businesses in the area disagree.

"Speaking as both a resident and a business person, I can't imagine anything worse for the area," Jim Lewis, owner of BMW Motorcycle of Birmingham, said.

Lewis has been open since July next door to the abandoned Century Plaza site.

"This is a horrific type of option in terms of what it would do in providing a negative anchor in this area," Lewis said.

Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer says the Howard Hughes Corporation of Dallas, Texas, which owns the property, has sent a letter to the Regional Jail Authority suggesting a study to transform the mall into a correctional facility. Birmingham, Homewood, Vestavia Hills and Mountain Brook make up the authority.

"We've discussed a regional jail several years ago. We looked hard at it but a lot of the cities have cooled to the idea," McBrayer said.

McBrayer says the Homewood city jail and police department is considered valuable property in downtown. The city is continuing to look for a new location for a jail. Birmingham Mayor William Bell says jail overcrowding remains an issue for the Magic City.

"That does not mean the city of Birmingham will not go forward with unveiling some plans in the next several weeks, if not months, to address the issue of housing inmates here in the city of Birmingham," Bell said.

The county jail in Birmingham is also overcrowded since the Bessemer jail closed. Jefferson Co. Commissioner Jimmie Stephens says the best financial deal for the regional authority is for them to support putting inmates in the Bessemer jail.

"We proposed this on several different occassions to the sheriff to reopen the Bessemer facility. It's there. It's built and it's unused," Stephens said.

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