2015 Will Bring Lots of Activity for
Over the Mountain Cities
By William C. Singleton
In the cities of Homewood, Hoover, Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills, 2015 will be a year in which many projects conceived over the past few years will either begin or reach their completion.
Many of those projects include major developments that will provide a boost to the local economy and recreational, health and infrastructure projects designed to enhance the quality of life of residents of those communities.
The city of Hoover expects to install special needs playground equipment by next month to enhance the Over the Mountain Miracle League Field at the Hoover East Sports Complex, said Mayor Gary Ivey.
The city in 2013 donated $330,000 toward the construction of the field, which is used by disabled children and adults. The Over the Mountain Miracle League raised about $70,000 toward operational costs and runs a baseball program for the fall and spring months.
“The kids will have something to do while they’re waiting to play,” Ivey said of the playground equipment. “That’s a huge, huge deal.”
Hoover also expects the state’s first freestanding emergency facility to open in May. Medical West will run the $13.5 million emergency care center to be located at Interstate 459 and Alabama Highway 150, also called John Hawkins Parkway.
“The facility will dramatically cut our response time to get people to the hospital when they’re in need,” Ivey said.
Another freestanding emergency center is being built by Brookwood Medical Center at U.S. 280 and Alabama 119. That facility is expected to open in December, the mayor said.
The city also expects to begin resurfacing and repairing Hugh Daniel Drive in the spring. The project will cost about $1.3 million with Hoover paying 20 percent, or $260,000, and the state picking up the rest. The project will include resurfacing about three miles of road on Hugh Daniel Drive a little less than a mile from U.S. 280 to Shelby County 41.
“We’re real excited about all the promising things we’ve got going in 2015,” Ivey said. “We’ve had a successful 2014 and look forward to an even more successful 2015.”
Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer said he expects 2015 to be a year of continued business development for his city, particularly at Brookwood Village.
Hickory Tavern, a Charlotte, N.C.-based restaurant chain, has announced it will open a restaurant at the mall between the Books-A-Million and the east parking deck. The restaurant will be Hickory Tavern’s first in Alabama.
Mattress Firm also announced its plans to open a store in 2015 between DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse and Target.
The city plans to remodel the Mazer property off Green Springs Highway for two new tenants. The mayor didn’t disclose the identity of those tenants, but the city has targeted the Green Springs Highway corridor for business development. The Mazer property includes a thrift store and a Pep Boys auto store.
The city also is working to develop the Old Mountain Brook Inn site into a complex with a 10-story office building, hotel and parking deck. The city council has set a public hearing on a rezoning request for Jan. 26 at 6 p.m. at the Homewood Municipal Complex.
McBrayer said although Homewood’s challenge is finding available space for business development, he’s encouraged that businesses still want to make his city a place to locate.
“My office is continually flooded with calls from business owners looking to locate or relocate into Homewood,” he said. “I think the word is out that Homewood is open for business and that we are centrally located within the Birmingham community, have a wonderful school system, continue to operate our city with surpluses each year, and have the best residents in the world who are supportive of our business community.”
In Mountain Brook, the city expects the luxurious 100-room Grand Bohemian Hotel to open this summer, possibly in June or July.
The Grand Bohemian is a major development within the $140 million Lane Parke project, which will include about 166,000 square feet of retail space, about 30,000 square feet of office space and a 274-unit apartment complex.
“We’re hoping to hear an announcement soon about when the first phase of the commercial is going to start,” said Mountain Brook City Manager Sam Gaston.
The city of Mountain Brook also expects improvements to its infrastructure to start this year.
Gaston said the city will begin two sidewalk projects by next summer. The first project includes building sidewalks which will follow a path from Mountain Brook Presbyterian Church on Brookwood Road to Crosshill Road to Oakdale Road to Woodvale Road and then end near the city’s high school on Bethune Drive. The other project is smaller in scope but will extend sidewalks from Mountain Brook Parkway and Cahaba Road to the north of Lakeshore Drive near Colonial Brookwood Village.
The project is expected to cost about $1 million with Mountain Brook contributing $400,000 and the federal government picking up the remaining amount, Gaston said.
Mountain Brook city officials also anticipate finishing a new Cahaba River Park on the southeastern side of the city this year. The project is expected to cost about $450,000.
“We’re going to have a pavilion, an outdoor classroom and walking paths,” Gaston said. “We’re very excited about this project as it will enhance the quality of life for our citizens.”
The city of Vestavia Hills has several projects it expects to either begin or be completed this year.
Vestavia Hills city officials are building a new municipal complex behind the Vestavia Plaza Shopping Center on U.S. 31 to replace the current city hall, which no longer fits the city’s needs and is too costly to renovate. City Manager Jeff Downes said the new municipal center should be open in September.
“We’re going to continue our efforts to keep that on schedule and make it our new home,” Downes said.
Coinciding with the building of the new city hall, the city is in the process of selling its old facility to Chick-fil-A. The sale is dependent upon rezoning the 1.3-acre property for commercial use.
A rezoning hearing is before the city’s Planning and Zoning Board this month. Downes said he expects the council to hear the issue at a meeting in late February or early March.
Site work on a senior-living facility and skilled nursing home at Patchwork Farms should begin early this year, Downes said. Construction on the two facilities will represent about $45 million in construction.
Other projects the city is looking forward to this year include:
The demolition of the abandoned Ruby Tuesday and Pizza Hut buildings to pave the way for a Sprouts Farmers Market and a 34,000-square-foot retail development.
The demolition of the old city library to pave the way for a new America’s First Credit branch opening on the property along U.S. 31.
The completion of a landscaping project at the intersection of U.S. 31 and Interstate 65 to make the southern gateway into Vestavia Hills more attractive.
The completion of parking improvements at the Library in The Forest, which includes 40 additional parking spaces.
The grand opening of a new trail system with bridge and park amenities at McCallum Park off Rocky Ridge Road and the construction of a neighborhood park in Cahaba Heights. The city has acquired grant money to purchase and demolish four homes located in a flood plain area and convert the property into a neighborhood park. The total project costs about $1.25 million. But it fits into the city’s Master Plan for the Cahaba Heights area, Downes said.
“Part of our 2008 (master) plan and part of our refreshed plan all point to the need for more green space, and this will help accomplish that,” he said.
Downes said all areas of the city should see improvements this year.
“The entirety of Vestavia Hills, whether you live in the far eastern or the far western or central portions, you’ll see activity in 2015 that will be very positive,” Downes said.