By Toni Stauffer
Homage Park may be happening on the site of the old Cobb Hospital on 20th Avenue, but it will look very different than originally planned.
The original plan that was announced in 2013 was to swap two acres of the 18-acre hospital land to the Fletcher McCollister American Legion Post 135 for the two-acre property at 13th Street and Broad, which included the 13,500 square-foot building that currently serves as the headquarters for Post 135.
The City of Phenix City had planned to build a brand new $3.5 million facility for the American Legion Post 135, surrounded by a $3 million “Homage Park” in tribute to the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. The facility would have included a banquet/bingo hall, separate dining hall, kitchen, women’s auxiliary, outside flag court and a reflecting pool—plans designed by architect Scott Holmes with Hecht Burdeshaw Architects.
The total cost of the project had been estimated to be $6.5 million.
Almost six years later, Phenix City Mayor Eddie Lowe said raising that kind of money or getting grants for a park just isn’t feasible for the city.
“I was told by Senator Shelby that if you come to them with just a park, it’s not going to go anywhere,” Lowe said. “But if you do it with revitalization and housing that encompasses the park, then more and likely we can get funding to help with that. We’re going to proceed with this and act upon it.”
At the Feb. 20 Phenix City Council meeting, the city council approved a 75-year lease for 6.67 acres to the Phenix City Housing Authority for an amount not to exceed $400,000. The site will include mixed income housing as well as Homage Park, but what the park will include is unknown at this time.
“The Housing Authority is trying to get tax credits which equates to millions of dollars. They can get tax credits for building mixed income housing. They can get the money where we can draft, hopefully, a plan that will include the park for veterans,” Lowe added.
Some of the property isn’t buildable, but Lowe said it would be a great place for a walking trail as a creek runs through the area. Lowe sees this as a great thing for the city because it will revitalize the area that has been an eyesore for many years.
After being in existence since the 1940s, Cobb Hospital on 20th Avenue shut its doors in 2001. The vacant building gradually became an overgrown eyesore as well as station for vagrants and vandals. It was eventually torn down in 2012.
As for the Phenix City Housing Authority’s plans for the site, Executive Director Mary Mayrose said she cannot comment yet.