By William C. Singleton III
“Under Construction” or “Construction Coming Soon” signs will be hanging in Over the Mountain cities in 2014.
Fresh off an economic downturn which dried tax revenues and reduced spending, municipal governments are moving forward with much-needed capital projects designed to spur economic development or enhance the lives of residents. Some of those projects began in 2013 and should be completed in 2014; others will start this year.
Vestavia Hills Mayor Alberto “Butch” Zaragoza said his city’s focus this new year is to begin construction of a new city hall. Vestavia Hills officials plan to build a new municipal complex on the old Food World building property in the Vestavia Plaza Shopping Center at 1052 Montgomery Highway and at the abandoned Joe’s Ranch House at 1105 Mayland Lane.
The current city hall was built in the 1950s and doesn’t meet the needs of the police or fire administration, city officials say. The current building is about 35,000 square feet, and the city needs at least between 40,000 and 50,000 square feet.
Zaragoza said groundbreaking on the new city hall should begin by mid-May with a completion date set for August 2015. The city has hired BL Harbert International Inc. to build the new facility.
But the project is more than just building a new municipal complex, the mayor said. It will help shape the economic direction of the U.S. 31 corridor that runs through Vestavia Hills.
Two years ago, an Atlanta-based consulting firm the city commissioned unveiled a Vision Plan for Vestavia Hills, which includes recommendations on how to improve economic development throughout the city. A portion of the plan focuses on developing U.S. 31 aesthetically and economically.
“We’ve been told by different people if we could put a municipal building in an area we’re looking at redeveloping, that would help out,” Zaragoza said. “We really feel like that’s going to be a kickoff point for us in redoing Highway 31.”
Mountain Brook Mayor Terry Oden said the first phase of the apartment complexes connected with the Parke Lane project should be available in April or May of 2014.
“The Parke Lane project is proceeding pretty much on schedule,” Oden said.
The city tore down the abandoned 274-unit Park Lane apartment complex to create space for the new Parke Lane at Mountain Brook Village development.
The planned development will include about 166,000 square feet of retail space, 30,000 square feet of office space, a 100-room hotel and apartment units. The project should cost between $130 and $140 million.
The new development will replace the much older 71,000-square-foot Mountain Brook Shopping Center and Park Lane Apartments in Mountain Brook Village, built in 1955 and 1948 respectively.
Mountain Brook officials say the development will be built in three phases and take three years to complete.
Oden said the Kessler Group has secured selected Parke Lane development to build one of its super-upscale Grand Bohemian Hotels.
“Kessler has the reputation of designing, building and operating the absolute finest hotels in the United States,” Oden said. “This one will have 100 rooms, banquet rooms and several meeting rooms and a surprise area.”
Homewood hopes its projects to get people moving recreationally and through its city more easily either get started this year or come to completion in 2014.
The city’s new $16.2 million recreation center should be completed by May 2014. The nearly 52,000-square-foot recreation center will replace the former 40-year-old facility at Oxmoor Road and Central Avenue and will include more gyms, fitness and meeting rooms, a banquet hall, a large indoor running track and a pool with competition lanes.
Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer said the city hopes to get started on various projects to alleviate traffic congestion and improve the flow of vehicles through Homewood. Those projects include a redesign of the Interstate 65/Lakeshore Parkway exit, the expansion of the Shades Creek Greenway Trail beyond Lakeshore Drive and Green Springs Highway to the former Wynnsong Theater west of I-65 and improvements to West Oxmoor Road.
The city has allocated $4.28 million in its 2013-2014 capital budget for these and other projects. All three projects involve state-city partnerships requiring an 80/20 funding split. Homewood’s 20 percent match would amount to about $300,000 for the Greenway Trail expansion, $600,000 for improvements to the I-65/Lakeshore Parkway exit and $1 million for the redesign of West Oxmoor Road.
“We’ve got the money to do it, and they’re projects that need to be done,” McBrayer said. “For some reason a lot of our projects seem to revolve around traffic, and that’s a good thing because that means a lot of people are coming to Homewood, so it’s something we really need to get addressed.”
Traffic projects are also in the works this year for Hoover, Mayor Gary Ivey said during his annual State of the City address in December.
In April, work should begin on the project to widen U.S. 31 from Interstate 459 to Data Drive. Ivey said the widened road should be completed by the time Christmas shoppers hit the roads in Hoover.
Also on the horizon in Hoover for the new year is the state’s first freestanding emergency room. Brookwood Medical Center plans to open the facility near the intersection of U.S. 280 and Alabama 119 by the end of the year.
The city will get a second freestanding emergency room when Medical West opens a facility off John Hawkins Parkway near Interstate 459 by the summer of 2015.
Ivey said 2014 promises to be a busy year at the Hoover Met, with several new events slated to come to the venue this year.
The USA Football Bowl with bring more than 130 college all-star football players and their fans to Hoover in January, and the city will host the National Pro Fastpitch Softball Championship Series in 2014 and 2015. There are also plans for a Christmas light show during the holiday season at the Hoover RV Park.
Residents and visitors to Hoover this year will have plenty of new places to shop and eat, Ivey said.
Two Steak ’n Shake restaurants are slated to open in Hoover this year–one at the former location of Brother Zeke’s Heavenly Barbecue in the shopping center near the intersection of U.S. 31 and Lorna Road and the second in the Inverness Plaza shopping center at the intersection of U.S. 280 and Valleydale Road.
At the intersection of U.S. 31 and John Hawkins Parkway, a new Walgreens is set to open in the former location of a gas station and the long-vacant Omelet Shop building. More retail businesses are coming to the U.S. 31 corridor, Ivey said, including a Bojangles restaurant.
Work is also underway on the Green Valley Health and Rehab nursing home at the intersection of U.S. 31 and Interstate 65.
Ivey said a temporary fire station should be operational by February in the Ross Bridge neighborhood. The temporary station will serve the community while a permanent station is being designed and built.