While Decatur has an abundance of construction underway and will open a new parking deck and hotel this year, other local cities also have big plans for 2023 that include the debut of Priceville's Event Center and the start of public building projects in Hartselle.
The mayors of those three cities and Athens said their priorities this year will include road improvements and other measures to manage growth. Census Bureau statistics show Athens in Limestone County is the second fastest growing city in Alabama, with its population increasing 5.2% from 2020 to 2021 to 27,927.
Morgan County's three cities are also benefiting from the regional job market expansion led by Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, which started its Mazda line in 2022 after beginning operations in 2021.
In addition to having a Fairfield Inn by Marriott under construction downtown, Decatur has two other new hotels in the planning stages. Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling said close to $70 million in construction is occurring just in the city’s downtown area.
Located at the corner of East Moulton Street and Second Avenue Southeast, the four-story, 80-room Fairfield Inn is scheduled to be completed this fall.
The city is building a parking deck next to the hotel at the corner of East Moulton and First Avenue Southeast. The deck, which will include four retail/restaurant spaces and two electric car charging stations, is also scheduled for a fall completion.
Next door, the Alabama Community College System is building a $15.6 million Alabama Center for the Arts residence hall at the corner of Johnston Street and First Avenue Southeast. It is also scheduled for a fall completion.
Calhoun Community College and Athens State University will share the three-floor, 43,474-square-foot residence hall. Its 49 apartments will include 11 studio, 19 one-bedroom and 19 two-bedroom units.
Bowling said the city continues to see multi-family development in downtown Decatur. A town home development by Yogi Dougher and Steve Armistead is expected to be finished by early spring,
Named McGhee Square, all 18 town homes in this development between Vine and Walnut streets just east of Bank Street are already sold prior to completion, according to Dougher.
Bowling said brothers Em and George Barran are creating another loft apartment complex at Syke’s Place on Bank Street Northeast that will be similar to the complex they opened at 307 Second Ave. S.E.
At the corner of Sixth Avenue and Lee Street Northeast, Renasant Bank is building a two-story, 7,700-square-foot bank office. The bank should be complete and open early this year.
Elsewhere in the city, construction of the roughly $18.2 million overpass at Alabama 20 is expected to be complete in late January or early February, Bowling said.
Funded by a $14.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the overpass is meant to promote development in the area. However, no projects for the nearby property have been announced as overpass completion nears, Bowling said.
“Up until about two and a half months ago, we were seeing about an average of three developers a week in here (inquiring about the Alabama 20 properties) and, all of a sudden, it seems like the brakes came on,” Bowling said.
Bowling said it seems like inflation and interest rates made it difficult to find a developer for the Alabama 20 properties connected to the new overpass. He’s hoping the federal government’s push to bring material costs down will help all developers.
However, he said most of the properties in this area of the city “are pretty pricey. That can make it difficult to put that kind of capital down and then do the development.”
Work on the roughly $10 million Sixth Avenue streetscape plan is expected to begin this year. A starting date hasn't been determined because the city continues to work on planning for the improvements along Sixth Avenue between Prospect Drive and Wilson Street.
Decatur received $10.88 million in American Rescue Plan Act money that will be used for the widening of Modaus Road Southwest, revamping the Upper River Road intersections with Alabama 67 and Indian Hills Road, enhancing Pines Park in Northwest Decatur and contributing $600,000 to a planned in-patient mental health facility.
“We’re trying to use most of the ARPA money for quality-of-life items,” Bowling said.
Modaus and Upper River roads are areas of major residential and recreation development in the city.
Three subdivisions are under construction off Upper River Road. Developer Andy Villarreal also is planning an upscale apartment complex off Upper River Road. Originally planned for 175 apartments, the Villarreal development had to be reduced to about 150 apartments during the engineering and design stages, he said.
Villarreal anticipates construction beginning early this year.
Bowling said he hopes the city will receive an Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program II grant for the Upper River Road-Alabama 67 intersection.
A subdivision of 432 homes with 130 town homes is planned for 80.86 acres off Modaus Road Southwest just east of Shady Grove Lane while a 201-unit apartment complex is in the works for nearby property on Old Moulton Road.
In 2021 as part of a $98.4 million settlement over alleged contamination by 3M and other industries in their disposal of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the city received $42 million for recreation projects, including replacement of the Aquadome on Fifth Avenue S.W.
The city is planning two separate projects to replace the Aquadome facilities. A recreation center will be built at Wilson Morgan Park. Parks & Recreation Director Jason Lake said he’s hoping the plans are complete by the end of the summer so they can start seeking construction bids.
The city plans to build a softball complex on 34.2 acres across the street from the planned Moulton Road subdivision and adjacent to Austin High School. Lake said he hopes the planning for the fields will be finished by this summer so the bidding and construction can begin to have the park ready in 2024.
Using state allocations, the city is building three parks in District 3 and another in District 5. An all-inclusive special needs park is planned near Oak Park Middle School. All three should be started and completed in 2023.
Mayor Ronnie Marks said Athens will continue to focus on dealing with its tremendous growth. One of the areas he is working on is bringing retail projects that produce sales tax revenues.
“With Buc-ee's opening (off Huntsville Brownsferry Road), I think you will see a lot happening in that (southeast Athens) area in the next six months,” Marks said.
Marks said he anticipates the city experiencing a commercial boom in the next two to three years along U.S. 72 and U.S. 31, particularly at Tanner Crossroads, and near Buc-ee's and Interstate 65.
Marks said they are also working on getting more businesses in the downtown area and along U.S. 72.
The growth is a blessing and a challenge for city leaders, he said. One of the issues for the city is traffic.
“The challenge is moving traffic and how we widen our roads,” Marks said.
On Dec. 22, the Athens City Council annexed 183 acres along Interstate 65 belonging to the Braly family.
Mayor Randy Garrison said Hartselle officials also are working on improvements to their city. They plan to use a $14.5 million bond issue to fund a new library and fire station. They’re looking for properties for both projects.
“We would like for the fire station to be farther east, close to the Exit 325 at Interstate 65,” Garrison said.
An ATRIP II project will fund alternative turn lanes on U.S. 31 this year. The city is contributing $700,000 to this $2.2 million project.
Garrison said they’re planning to do a $1.6 million renovation of Sparkman Park, including new athletic field lighting and improvements to the walking track, and the tennis courts, restroom upgrades. They plan to improve the fields and their drainage.
A sidewalk project is planned for the north and south sides of Sparkman Street, Garrison said.
The Hartselle mayor said road improvements are also scheduled for Alabama 36 and Lando Cain Road behind Cracker Barrel. A civil engineer is working on the plans, he said.
Retail recruiting, a new Event Center and sewer improvements highlight the 2023 plans for Priceville, Mayor Sam Heflin said.
The new $7 million, 26,000-square-foot Event Center is scheduled to open next to City Hall in January, Heflin said.
The city is planning a $1.7 million improvement to the sewer system this year, he said.
The Decatur-area Metropolitan Planning Organization is planning improvements to Skidmore, Bethel and Cave Springs roads.
Priceville recently received a $997,000 state grant, which requires an 80-20 split between the state and city, for sidewalks in the city.
Heflin said a priority during the new year will be recruiting new retail businesses to the town.