Warrior Mayor Johnny Ragland is like a child looking forward to Christmas as he envisions Warrior’s Hallmark Farms development coming to fruition.
Considering the floating Christmas tree and decorated barn with which passersby had become familiar, that is understandable.
“Myself, I would love to have it next month,” Ragland said. “Two businesses over here. Five over here. But it takes time.”
Members of the Hallmark Cooperative announced today that it has officially taken control of the property just off Interstate 65 and nearly surrounded by Locust Fork, one of three major tributaries of the Black Warrior River.
Along with revealing the logo for the cooperative, which features the iconic barn on the property, cooperative members talked about what is to come to the area in north Jefferson County.
“We can bring as much as 720 jobs to just this property,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons, who is president of the cooperative. “That is a huge influx of daytime folks.”
Ammons also referenced more than 800 residential properties that have been approved for neighboring Kimberly.
“(Hallmark Farms) will be a huge boost for this part of Jefferson County as well as the retail that will eventually go in up here on the northern side of the property,” Ammons said. “That will be a huge boost for the city of Warrior and offshoots, certainly for Kimberly and Morris, and other parts of Jefferson County. But I certainly don’t want to leave out our neighboring counties that it will also influence as jobs become available.”
Ammons is joined in the cooperative by Ragland, Warrior Commercial Development Authority board member Brad Fuller, Jefferson County Commissioner Joe Knight and John Henry, the county’s chief financial officer.
Knight, whose district includes Warrior, said the cooperative won’t make the mistake of others who have “destroyed landmarks” only to later realize the value of what was lost. The historic house and barn built by Ted and Mary Hallmark will remain and be the anchor of the mixed-use development.
“This property has a total of 565 acres,” Knight said. “We are proposing that the section to the north of the house will be for retail, the acreage where the old Hallmark business office is located would be zoned commercial and the acres back behind the house would be for light industrial.
“We want to reiterate that there are no plans to do away with the Hallmark home or the iconic barn that everyone sees from the interstate,” Knight said. “We are planning to use both for events.”
The first official event at the Hallmark Farms development will be the 2020 Decorators’ Showhouse benefiting the Alabama Symphony Orchestra in April. More information will be available in the coming weeks at AlabamaSymphony.org.
The event is the organization’s largest annual fundraiser and features the work of professional interior designers along with student designers from local colleges.
Development Could Include Retail, Industrial and Recreational
Commissioners in February added $75,000 to the $25,000 in earnest money put up by Warrior to purchase the property.
“This location is perfectly situated to provide retail space for the people in the community,” Ammons said, “but also has acreage for light industrial suppliers that may be working with industry to the north and west of us.”
The chair of the county’s economic development committee specifically noted that the site is within 90 miles of auto plants for Toyota, Mazda, Honda and Mercedes.
“We’re looking at some restaurants on the (Warrior) River,” Ragland said. “We’re looking at putting some kayaking in. This land is bordered all the way around by three, 3½ miles of the waterfront.”
Othell Phillips, Ammons’ chief of staff and a former mayor of Gardendale, said the cooperative borrowed from a bank $13 million, of which $7.5 million was used to purchase the property. The rest will be used to build roads and provide other infrastructure improvements and improvements to the property.
The loan will be paid back from the sale of the property and 2% from retail sales on the property. The rental of the event space also will go toward repaying the loan.
Phillips made a Facebook post about today’s proceedings. Within three hours, the post had drawn 2,700 reactions, 1,800 shares and 769 comments.
Ragland said the Hallmark Farms development is coming at a critical time for Warrior.
“It’s hard to say live or die but if we don’t get this now, our neighbors in the next county … they’re going to get it and we’re going to be left in the middle of nothing,” the mayor said. “With this happening, we’re going to start bringing in revenue for us, for Kimberly, for Morris, for everybody. You’re going to have people coming to see it, stopping by to eat and things of that nature.
“We’re going to have the money to go in and redo some things in downtown Warrior, redo some things on our streets. It’s going to help us as much or more than it helps anybody else.”